"Django Unchained" Takes A Gunshot At The Traditional Western

Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio star in "Django Unchained." Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company.
Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio star in “Django Unchained.” Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is an untraditional, and perhaps unorthodox, take on the traditional classic American cowboy flick. It takes the Western motif and sets it in the American South, during the height of slavery. In typical Tarantino fashion, it doesn’t lack in shock value, dealing directly and violently with America’s sordid past, and the brutal truth of slavery, which is perhaps the most poignant part of the movie.

The movie follows the quest of its cowboy, Django (Jamie Foxx), a freed slave on a quest to rescue his damsel in distress, his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is still in bondage. Foxx is on fire as Django, as he becomes a bounty hunter who kills white men for money, flipping stereotypes on their heads and never shying from sensitive matters. Christoph Waltz is brilliant as Dr. King Schultz, the German immigrant who ropes Django into the bounty biz, and soon becomes his business partner. As Django’s quest unfolds, and his relationships with both his wife and Schultz start to unfold, the movie becomes a loose but beautiful metaphor for a German fairy tale about the princess Broomhilda, for whom Django’s wife is named – of course with lots of added shootouts and intense action sequences.

The movie seems to play in two acts. The first half of the movie is an enjoyably indulgent take on classic Westerns, with Tarantino’s appropriate dramatic flair. Django is trained by Schultz to become “the fastest gun in the South.” This role Foxx commands in the second half of the movie, which takes a suspenseful and violent turn as Django infiltrates the hilariously named plantation of the nefarious Calvin Candie, played with devilish delight by Leonardo DeCaprio. Samuel L. Jackson surprises as an antagonistic slave there named Stephen. The second act is a bit harder to swallow and more over-the-top than the first, but nonetheless the movie is satisfyingly gritty and dangerous.

Django Unchained is a must-see for this upcoming Oscar season. Tarantino’s spectacular direction and stellar performances by the entire cast are sure to garner nominations. Not to mention, the groundbreaking production forces America to stare directly in the face of its greatest demon, and the one most often ignored in its history. It’s not pleasant coming to terms with a sordid racial past, but perhaps Django proves just how far America has come, when an audience of all races can cheer for Django as a great American cowboy.

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