Django Unchained

I knew I liked going to Director Quentin Tarantino’s films but I never really analyzed why except that they are “fun” interesting movies. That’s probably the best reason anyway. After watching Django Unchained I realized that in addition to being fun, Tarantino is an innovative film maker who is able to attract top actors to his films because they want to work for him. Jamie Fox, Chris Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel Jackson are among the best in Hollywood and getting them all to work in the same film is a testament to their fondness for the man. And they are all superb. Dicaprio plays a monstrous plantation owner so well it’s a wonder that he will ever go back to leading man (but he does in Gatsby.) But to me the best acting in the film was Samuel Jackson who described his own role this way, “this nigger you want me to play is the most despicable nigger in film history……..and you want ME to play him? I just had to do it” I did not recognize him for the first few minutes of his screen appearance. Chris Waltz is, as always a good craftsman and Jamie Fox continues to find new ways to develop as an A list actor. It was fun to see him as the knight in shining armor slaying the dragon and climbing the castle walls to rescue the fair maiden (whose movie name is appropriately Brumhilda).
But the real eye opener is listening to Tarantino talk about why he chose to make a film about slavery in the first place. To paraphrase he says, It’s part of our history that no one in America wants to talk about because it was so brutally horrible and yet every other country in the world has been forced to confront their despicable atrocities so why shouldn’t we. He captures the sheer inhumanity of slavery authentically which may be the first time many Americans actually see some of what happened.
His preceding film, Inglorious Basterds, delt with the Nazi world of genocide and barbarism. As I reflect both Germany’s rise to global terrorism and the curse of American slavery has always fascinated me; and as a coiled rattle snake buzz, they are both chilling. I have spent many years trying to understand the enabling cultures that sprang from “civilized” society. Tarantino has taken them head on and laid them out for all to see.
And why not, both supplied him with ready-made villains, and an action packed settings that rivet today’s audiences. Subtlety is not a word I would associate with his work, he is direct and no holds barred. His villains are bad assed folks and he shows you why. His heroes become bad assed folks as necessary to exterminate the evil and the audience is kept waiting just long enough for retribution which we all know is a certainty. I am drawn to his work the way I was to monster movies as a kid, I knew the monster was gonna die I just wanted to see how it happened. His message to me seems to be, “look you can study it all you want son but in the end what you have to do is kill it.”

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5 Responses

  1. Your take on this is interesting. When it came out, I was like Ho Hum, another Quentin Tarantino bloodbath. The movie buff in my office saw it and loved it, but he is a fan of violent movies and video games. Then it was nominated for the Oscar and I said, whoa, maybe I need to rethink this. Yours, however, is the first review that makes me want to see it. I especially liked your observation that the good guys have to become just badass enough also. I think that’s true in real life. No matter how much we revere Gandhi and MLK Jr., and their strategies did work long term, there is something that is just more satisfying about seeing the bad guys get it.

  2. Also, when it comes to despicable atrocities, don’t forget the Salem witch trials. For the longest time, we were the land of the free white men. Women, Native Americans, and persons of African descent need not apply. It never surprises me when other countries think we are hypocritical and have a lot of nerve talking about human rights. That said, we’ve come a long way in a short time. I wouldn’t want to live in any other country.

  3. “there is something that is just more satisfying about seeing the bad guys get it.”

    Exactly so! And that is where Tarantino shines. Both endings are surreal and in fact Inglorious Basterds is an alternative universe type ending. I think that is his point……..”wouldn’t it have been great if we really could have done this to the Bastards?) Their victims destroying them with fiery retribution ? (lol just occurred to me that Tarantino was born in Tennessee-the heart of the bible belt)

    ‘we were the land of the free white men’

    Yes it’s true that we reflected the then contemporary worlds mores in our birth and early development. And if we look back through todays morality it is tempting to judge harshly. That inconsistency provides the basic conundrum of American Civilization. Think of what we can become if we can get past the past.

  4. Django is my second favorite Tarantino film, After Kill Bill 1. Notice how in both Django and Basterds, at the end a structure is completely destroyed? Symbolizing the destruction of those cultures…

  5. I first tuned into the middle of KB I and was totally lost. Then I figured it all out at the end of KB II. He’s a little boy man right now, but a very talented one. Imagine what he may become in a few more years.

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