When I hear about a controversial movie featuring Kerry Washington, Jamie Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel Jackson, and Christoph Waltz (from Inglorious Bastards) I am intrigued. So I went to see Django Unchained because I wanted to know the truth about this movie. I don’t frequent the movies, mainly because I often fall asleep and I usually have to see a movie twice before I can fully grasp all it has to offer both in cinematography and storytelling. However, if you have seen a Tarantino movie there are some things you can expect like profanity and violence (plenty of blood and maybe some guts), this movie does not stray from the Tarantino formula in that sense.
Django opens like a typical Western with a sunny mountain vista except there are slaves in the shot and we are introduced to the world of Django. Some are complaining about the graphic violence in this movie, it certainly was not more violent than Kill Bill or Grindhouse, but I think I understand. Leonardo DiCaprios Candie as the white slaver, the hot box, metal masks, brandings and lashings are moments when the film forces the audience to confront the reality of chattel slavery. It is difficult to contend with the juxtaposition of the harsh brutality inflicted on Africans during slavery which was the norm and how modern liberal white America wants to be seen. I mean it is Tarantino and not Spike Lee, so I get the feeling white America expects Tarantino to paint them more favorably. There was a lot of vengeance being dished out but it is hard to say some of it wasn’t warranted or without provocation from Monsieur Candieland, or that it came solely from Django. There was a certain form of justice taken against Hilde by Stephen, there is a scene when Monsieur CandieLand is going to lose some “fight stock” where he unleashed some serious vengeance; and let’s not forget Mr. Shultz.
Is Django is a love story? In the traditional sense yes, Django is driven by a love for his lady but it is difficult to see how he embarks on his quest without the assistance from Dr. Shultz, the German Bounty Hunter who is hardly talked about but plays a main character. Mr. Shultz feelings about slavery are clear but can we say he embodies humanity? He had a lot in common with Monsieur CandieLand. For those who say there were black people who owned slaves, this movie points out some blacks became slave owners to free their family members and that being a black slaver was nothing to brag about.
Jamie Fox is very believable as Django, Kerry Washington delivers as expected, DiCaprio was convincing; but Samuel Jackson and Christoph Waltz gave stellar performances. Samuel is an actor who has defied all the stereotypes of Hollywood, I just saw him as Director Fury in The Avengers, and now here he is as House Negro Stephen in Django. I would say that showed range but if you take away all the special effects they are essentially the same character—even though Jackson makes them feel different. It is clear when Hollywood wants a Powerful Black Man they call Mr. Jackson.
Let me finish by saying the only thing offensive about Django was Tarantino’s cameo, he should definitely leave the acting to the professionals. As for the use of the “N-word” I thought it was appropriate for the time period in which the movie was set and lent credibility to the film. I don’t understand the objection to the movie based on the use of the “N-word”, especially if you haven’t seen it. I have no doubt this is satire asking us to find the humor amidst evil and mayhem. I liked it and give it a thumbs-up.
While Django is a great movie, it is fiction and not an attempt to accurately chronicle heroic Africans during the time of slavery; it is not Crispus Attucks, Dred Scott, or Nat Turner, those movies should still be made– and if the Wayans Brothers can get funding and distribution for every brain fart they call a movie, a more noted film maker should be able to get funding to produce a movie about Nat Turner.