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Django Unchained (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 27, 2023


Django Unchained

Professor Tarantino’s Alternative History course continues.

When we last ran across the mad historian, the French resistance and a group of American GI headhunters single-handedly ended World War II by killing Der Fuhrer and every major Nazi officer in a fiery Paris cinema explosion.  Of course, this massive historical event didn’t appear in any history books, but Quentin Tarantino was not going to let facts shanghai his fanciful World War II action/drama Inglourious Basterds.

There are not many periods in history that would seem even more inappropriately serious for a cartoonish action film than the Holocaust, but Tarantino has always been a cheeky bastard, so he came up with another hot-button subject for his latest pulp-fiction historical drama.

What if a former slave is able to single-handedly take on the bigoted plantation owners of the pre-Civil War south, cutting a bloody swath across the Confederacy?

It’s an audacious idea, in equal parts brilliant and completely disrespectful, but fuck me if yet again Tarantino doesn’t mostly pull it off.  The guy has a major set of cojones, but he’s also a natural storyteller.

Unfortunately, as so often happens in Tarantino films, after an extremely strong two hours or so, the last half-hour of Django Unchained devolves into an orgy of bloody violence.  The bloodletting is so cartoonishly excessive – literally, the walls are painted red in blood – that the whole delicate balancing act comes crashing down.

However, it is an impressive attempt while it lasts.

Of course, Django Unchained is hard-wired to be controversial and borderline offensive, as hinted at in the debate about Tarantino’s excessive use of the N-word in the screenplay.  And it is rather pervasive here, though I suppose that in story context that is at least somewhat understandable.  Tarantino says that he was trying to submerse people in the ugliness.  Perhaps that is true, perhaps not.  That is a feeling you get a lot during Django Unchained, though.

Still, like I noted before, the strong writing, interesting storyline and fine acting carry the day before the film explodes in the final sequence in a plantation ironically called Candyland.

I guess at this point in his career, no one should be expecting Quentin Tarantino to make a subtle, thoughtful film.  However, if he ever tried, it would be pretty damned special.  In the meantime, I guess we’ll have to be impressed by his obvious filmmaking skills even as we are forced to swim through his bloody excesses.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: December 25, 2012.

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