2012 Movie Reviews: Django Unchained

images-1Well, that’s that. The last Best Picture nominee. And quite possibly the last movie I’ll see that was released in 2012. And what a film to go out on. The first Tarantino movie I’ve ever seen, Django Unchained promises to be intense and gripping to the very end. And it doesn’t disappoint.

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave who selected to be partners with bounty hunter King Schultz. (Christolph Waltz) After becoming a better murderer, he goes on the ultimate journey to get back his wife (Kerry Washington) from a plantation owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). But as he he pretends to be a black slaver, and as a servant (Samuel L. Jackson) grows suspicious of him, Django becomes more and more of a violent monster.

What works about this movie is the writing. Being a wonderful example of dark humor, Tarantino’s screenplay perfectly mixes the seriousness of slavery and murder with some witty banter. My favorite scene involves a bunch of hoodlums going after Django and Schultz, bringing sacks with holes to put over their heads. But the serious moment quickly turns comic, when they realize they can’t see anything. This movie seems to be both lighthearted and full of darkness, making me eager to watch more Tarantino films. The craft categories do a good job too, particularly the cinematography and costume design.

Then we have the acting. I’m surprised when people say that Django doesn’t have much of an ark, because he starts off as an innocent slave and ultimately becomes just as murderous as his partner. And speaking of which, Christolph Waltz plays a very intense Dr. Schultz, making for a giddy performance that’s borderline crazy. But my favorite actor is Leonardo DiCaprio, who ranges from a calm and collected businessman to a screaming madman in a millisecond. And watching how he doesn’t bat an eye as his slaves are tortured makes for the kind of villain that you just love to hate.

I can’t bring myself to say that the film is a masterpiece, as it does have it’s share of odd directorial decisions, like having Jonah Hill make a cameo or having a few moments left unexplained. But aside from that, this is one Oscar movie where the fuss is definitely merited.

****1/2

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