Quentin Tarantino has been called many things. Most people thought he was insane for wanting to do another period piece after the brilliance that was Inglorious Basterds. Even I thought it was kinda crazy to do a film set in the Antebellum period. But I trusted him, and thank god I did.Okay, so what do we know from the trailers? We know that there is a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx), and he’s rescued by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). We also know from the trailer that Leonardo DiCaprio is batshit crazy. What we don’t know from the trailer is that there’s a hell of a lot of story in between Django and Leo losing his shit.
So Django is on his way through Texas with a chain gang of slaves. They get stopped by Schultz, who promptly kills one of the men escorting the slaves and shoots the other’s horse. It’s Tarantino, if there isn’t blood in the first ten minutes, it’s not worth it. Schultz frees Django, then he frees the rest, leaving them to do what they please with the guy who’s pinned down by his dead horse.
Schultz explains what he does to Django when they enter a small town in Texas. Well, he explains after he shoots and kills the town’s sheriff. See, Schultz is a bounty hunter. Anyone who’s seen Star Wars knows what a bounty hunter is, but in case you don’t know a Mandalorian from an actual DeLorean, a bounty hunter is given a target, typically a criminal, and a price. The bounty hunter is to bring back that target, dead or alive, and he gets the money. Pretty simple. As Schultz puts it in the film, it’s like the slave trade. Except he deals in corpses (lemme say, I LOVED that little bit of explanation in the film). He asks Django if he will help him find three men, overseers, and kill them in exchange for Django’s freedom. And thus begins Django’s journey into the life of a bounty hunter.
They go to a plantation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (side note: when we saw/heard that part, my cousin and I lost it, because god only knows how many times we went there on family vacations) where the three overseers are working. Django knows them from his time on a different plantation, when they beat and burned his wife. As soon as Django finds out they’re about to do a similar thing to another woman, he hunts them down and shoots them dead. The plantation owner (Don Johnson. Yeah, he’s still acting. Yeah, I was surprised too) isn’t too thrilled by the idea of a black man shooting three of his overseers.
This leads to one of the best/most humorous scenes in the film. I mean, you cannot have a film that deals with slavery and the beginnings of the Civil War without having the KKK, now can you? (The correct answer is no.) So the plantation owner rallies together the Klan, and…just trust me when I say shell out the money for this film. Especially for this scene. I won’t completely ruin it for you, but just watch it and tell me you didn’t giggle. It also leads to Django showing he’s an expert marksman in one of the most beautifully shot scenes in the film (okay, they’re all beautifully shot, it’s Tarantino).
So some more bounty hunting goes on. Time passes. Django finds out his wife was sold to Calvin Candie, the owner of a cotton plantation in Mississippi. Django and Schultz pass themselves off as “mandingo” experts. What’s mandingo? In the film, it’s pretty much like a cock fight. Except with people. Two slaves fight to the death for their owners’ enjoyment, and the winner is treated like a king afterward. It’s pretty brutal. Actually, really brutal. Like, cringe and look away brutal.
Django and Schultz peak Candie’s interest by saying they want to purchase one of his fighters for $12,000. Yeah, imagine how much that would be in today’s terms. It’s all a part of their master plan to rescue Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), Django’s wife. They get to the plantation, and shit goes down from the moment they arrive. Hell, even before they get to the big house. As soon as they step foot on Candie’s property, we see that Candie is pretty fucked up.
That pretty much covers the story without going into full on synopsis mode. Now let’s get into the real nitty-gritty.
Here’s the thing. There’s a good reason Tarantino has a rabid fan base. It’s because the man is brilliant. And I don’t say that lightly. Yes, a lot of people say he’s overrated as a director. I say they’re wrong. Every shot, every scene has a purpose. Every choice was made with a specific idea in mind. And the writing…okay, little personal thought moment here. I found out about this film while I was writing a script set in post-Civil War Appalachia, hating every second of researching and trying to figure out how to do the dialogue. I’m currently bowing down to Tarantino, because good lord, he made it perfect. It was everything he wanted it to be, meaning a blaxploitation spaghetti Western. And it was expertly done.
The acting was superb. I can’t decide if I like Christoph Waltz better as a villain or as a good guy, because he does both so well. And I’m usually not a big fan of Jamie Foxx, but he was really good. I was rooting for him. Not so much the cameo of his package, but hey, you win some, you lose some. AND CAN WE PLEASE JUST GIVE LEO HIS DAMN OSCAR ALREADY? THE MAN CUT HIS HAND OPEN DURING A TAKE A KEPT GOING AND IT MADE IT TO THE FINAL CUT. PLEASE, JUST GIVE HIM AN AWARD.
Overall, an excellent film. Definitely well worth the wait. Incredible all the way around, with an awesome soundtrack and no gratuitous foot shots that Tarantino adores so much (though I’m willing to bet there’s something in the director’s cut). I’m more than likely gonna see it two more times. I’d give it 9 out of 10 bullets.