Two black slaves fight to the death in the bar room of a filthy rich plantation, like gladiators before their emperor, in this cruel game called Mandingo fighting. Pops are heard as bones break and joints dislocate. The victor picks up a stone to smite the ill-fated loser. Set on the brink of the American Civil War, the all-star cast in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained wrestle in a game of power.
Starring Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave who is freed upon the appearance of a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), the two journey into the pastoral South of antebellum America.
Django immediately grasps attention with its cast, unique setting, and Tarantino’s trademark grindhouse elements. The entire film tugs like the Mandingo match as Tarantino directs a black protagonist to kill white people. He explores the themes of power interplay between the owner with the owned, and the black with the white.
The script engages, and unnerves, as the dialogue escalates. In the same bar room Leonardo DiCaprio asks Foxx, “You got me curious,” and Foxx quips, “I’m curious what makes you so curious.” Silence fills the scene until Waltz interrupts.
|"I'm curious what makes you so curious"|
While the script is full of clever word play, Tarantino creates a formula within his films that result in predictability. Ala Inglorious Basterds, a long exchange of insults are heard, until, suddenly, many people are killed. Though entertaining, the climax takes too long to reach in this three hour long film.
The usual grindhouse elements appear in Django, but the film also revealed influences of spaghetti western and ‘70s blaxploitation films. The camera expresses the push and pull sensation, as in one moment the camera narrowly focuses on Waltz and Foxx, then cuts to a panoramic of their foes. These exchanges feel like a classic western showdown through Tarantino’s lenses.
Our country carries a terrible burden of the past, and Django’s story makes it all the more bearable. Tarantino succeeds in portraying racism as ridiculous through his portrayal of the immature KKK, or in the caricaturization of black stereotypes, like Samuel L. Jackson’s deliberate performance of an Uncle Tom.
Like a modern day gladiator match, much of Django is entertaining showmanship, the action exchanges back and forth until an eruption of tension, yet after viewing Tarantino’s other films the victors and losers are revealed long before the end. Despite its length and Tarantino’s familiar structure, Django will try to entertain like a southern gentleman.