By Kelsey Meehan
When I first went to the movie theater to see “Django Unchained,” I admit that I was a bit skeptical. I had full intentions of seeing “Les Mis,” but my boyfriend’s opinion had trumped mine and so instead of seeing a musical, I found myself sitting in a theater preparing myself for Quentin Tarantino’s newest masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong; I was a huge Tarantino fan before seeing “Django,” and my respect only grew after viewing two hours and forty-five minutes of wonderfully satirized 19th century American culture. However, I had seen previews for the film that left me apprehensive about the frequent blood spurts and usage of a certain derogatory word. In retrospect, I should’ve had more faith in the stellar cast and director.
As soon as the movie began, anyone with an ounce of movie knowledge or who was a bit savvy in the ways of Tarantino could see the director’s influence all over the film. Tarantino successfully told the story of a slave-turned-bounty-hunter on the hunt for justice and revenge. Jamie Foxx and Christopher Waltz make a superb tag team, portraying the relationship between slave and free man with irony. Leonardo DiCaprio continues to impress as an arrogant and wealthy plantation and slave owner. If “Inception” hadn’t persuaded you, I think it’s safe to say that DiCaprio has proved to us all that he can do more than tread water in the freezing Atlantic while a ship sinks, although personally I still can’t shake the image of a young Leo not letting Kate Winslet die.
The story unfolds in a manner that is vaguely reminiscent of “True Grit,” complete with spontaneous shootouts and 19th century assassins. A slave is freed on the condition that he helps a bounty hunter find a trio of brothers responsible for wreaking havoc and death over the south; after this task is complete, the two bounties become a pair and work towards finding and purchasing the freedom of Django’s wife. This job unfolds, opening the door to hours of bloody beatings and killings. Death is portrayed in a purely Tarantino-esque manner that reminds viewers vaguely of “Pulp Fiction,” an aspect of the film which did not go unnoticed by critics who ripped into Tarantino for being “brash” and insensitive to the quite sensitive topic of the film.
Tarantino and his cast walk the line between inappropriate and archaic nearly perfectly in this modern rendition of an age-old story of redemption and justice. The story is enough to stir up emotions of vindication and fury in the face of slavery, and yet it has enough humor woven throughout that at times, it is easy to forget the brutality and reality of slavery and murder in the American western frontier; this was exactly what Tarantino had intended when he began production of his spaghetti western, a “big issue” movie portrayed in an accessible manner.
Long story short, Tarantino succeeded yet again in making a bold and daring movie into a masterpiece. “Django Unchained” won’t leave you bursting into laughter—or at least it shouldn’t—and it won’t leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling of love. It’s a film that inspires ironic smiles because you don’t know whether to cry or laugh about how many curse words were uttered. It’s a film that should ultimately be likened to “The Departed” and “Kill Bill,” with a two-word phrase beginning with “bad” and meaning awesome.