Django Unchained is a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film is set in the South before the Civil War, and the story follows Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who is bought by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German-born bounty hunter. Django teams up with Dr. Schultz to hunt down some of the most renowned, murderous men in the slave business. Django’s main goal, though, is to search until he finds his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who was sold into slavery many years before. When Django and Schultz finally track her down, she is in the confinement of a sadistically ruthless slave owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The two men must put on an act in order to gain the trust of Candie, but when Candie’s house slave (Samuel L. Jackson) becomes suspicious of their intentions, all hell breaks loose.
To say the very least, I absolutely, unequivocally loved this movie. I have always been a fan of Tarantino’s work, and his creation of Django ranks right up there with some of his best of all time, including Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Inglourious Basterds (my favorite film of all time). The film takes place during one of the most controversial periods of American history—the years of slavery before the Civil War. If you have seen the way Tarantino recreated the history of the Nazis during World War II in Inglourious Basterds, then you are in for an equally hilarious depiction of the racist slave owners of the 1800s.
His film has been met with both critical acclaim and controversy, but then again it seems most of Tarantino’s movies are met with this same mix of emotion from critics and the general public. He has been chastised by many, including the annoyingly outspoken Spike Lee, about his usage of the “N” word during the film, but in order to accurately depict this period of history, Tarantino would have been doing everyone a disservice by avoiding the word and sugarcoating the times. His script is violently gruesome, but honest, and like most of his films, it is downright hilarious—the scene with the white-hooded horsemen will forever go down as one of the funniest I have ever seen in a movie.
The tour de force that is Tarantino’s screenplay for Django Unchained is assisted by an ensemble of actors and actresses creating unique and illustrious portrayals of their dynamic characters on the screen. Jamie Foxx gives one of the best performances of his career, ranking behind only his roles in Collateral and Ray, in my opinion. Surprisingly, Foxx was not nominated for any of the major awards despite his excellent performance. Christoph Waltz once again collaborates with Tarantino, and like in his role as Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Waltz brings his incomparable and articulate diction to the role, coupled with his fascinatingly comical wit. His performance makes him a strong frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for which he is nominated.
Some other strong examples of exceptional acting are illustrated by Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen the house slave, Kerry Washington as Broomhilda, Don Johnson as Big Daddy, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. I was quite upset when both Jackson and DiCaprio were snubbed for Oscars because after seeing nearly every nominated film this year, their performances stood out way above the rest. DiCaprio has turned in a very triumphant career thus far, but he has yet to receive an Academy Award, and before nominations were announced, I was sure this would be his year. Django Unchained is rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language, and some nudity.
Academy Award nominations for Django Unchained:
Best Picture (Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, and Pilar Savone, Producers)
Actor in a Supporting Role (Christoph Waltz)
Cinematography (Robert Richardson)
Sound Editing (Wylie Stateman)
Best Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino)
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:
6. Life of Pi
8. Les Misérables
9. Beasts of the Southern Wild
11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
12. The Dark Knight Rises
14. The Master