Review Roundup: Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Quenin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED stars Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz). The film opens nationwide on Christmas Day.
In the film, Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles - dead or alive. Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men choose not to go their separate ways. Instead, Schultz seeks out the South's most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago.
Django and Schultz's search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Academy Award-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of "Candyland," an infamous plantation where slaves are groomed by trainer Ace Woody to battle each other for sport. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Academy Award-nominee Samuel L. Jackson), Candie's trusted house slave. Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organization closes in on them. If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they must choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival.
Let's see what the critics have to say:
Scott Mendelson, Huffington Post: Quentin Tarantino arguably made Django Unchained (teaser/trailer) because he wanted to try his hand at a Spaghetti Western, and that's basically what he has done. Alas, the film is little more than a genre exercise, with little more than the obvious role reversals to justify its artistic existence. That is is mostly entertaining and well-acted across the board goes without saying, but after the slyly subversive Inglorious Basterds, I frankly expect more from the filmmaker.
Betsy Sharkey, LA Times: In "Django," Tarantino is a man unchained, creating his most articulate, intriguing, provoking, appalling, hilarious, exhilarating, scathing and downright entertaining film yet. Even given the grand tradition of artists using their work for sharp social rebukes - Mel Brooks' genius swipe at Nazism in "The Producers," for one -Tarantino's mash-ups between the unconscionable inhumanity of others and his outrageous riffs on the matter defy comparison.
Alynda Wheat, People.com: Django, with its theme of how people play roles to navigate tricky situations, and its frank assessment of the commodification of human beings, leaves a viewer with plenty of conversation afterward, so take a friend. I might not recommend taking your mother, though. I had to hold mine in her seat.
Owen Gleiberman, EW.com: What's fun about Django - at least, when it is fun - is that it's also a liberal-hearted revenge Western, with a stoically commanding Jamie Foxx in the part of Django, a slave who is bought and freed by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), an abolitionist bounty hunter... In the gaudy-bloody last 30 minutes (think over-the-top and beyond), the mood vanishes. And Django Unchained becomes an almost sadistically literal example of exploitation at its most unironic.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: Quentin Tarantino's brilliant and brutal revenge western is a wildly exciting return to form: a thrilling adventure in genre and style climaxing in a bizarre and nightmarish scenario in a slave plantation in 1858. The movie is managed with Tarantino's superb provocation and audacity, with a whiplash of cruelty and swagger of scorn.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: By the two-hour mark the fun had oozed out of the movie for me. It's long. Or feels it. Tarantino's scripts tend to read, and play, like writing samples stitched together, full of heavily brocaded monologues for his most voluble characters. Yet he's a lousy self-editor, and despite his prodigious filmmaking knowledge and lust for filmmaking history, as a director he struggles with pacing and excess and detours.
Tom Charity, CNN: At a time when so many of our movies aspire to be colorblind (but "urban" film remains largely ghettoized), "Django Unchained" dares to confront racism as a potent force and a moving target, discovering horror and also grotesque comedy in the niceties of Southern etiquette: the way a white landowner can maintain a black mistress, for instance, or tolerate the grumbling of a loyal servant, just so long as everyone knows he will have his dogs tear a runaway limb from limb. That may be the film's true subject, when you get right down to brass tacks: the vacuity of good manners, and the limits of tolerance.
Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company