Friday, August 01, 2014

Django Unchained

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Quentin Tarantino movies can be a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.  If you’ve seen the Kill Bill movies, you know they can be violent and excessive, which is great if you’re into that sort of thing.  Last week, my brother and I decided to see a movie.  Django Unchained was playing early enough that we could get a discount, so we managed to get up there for the 10:35 showing.  (We were also under the impression that we’d get out around lunchtime, but I’ll save that for later.)  I wasn’t sure what to expect of Django Unchained.  I had seen the cover of Vibe.  I had heard Tarantino speaking about the film on NPR.  I knew that this was going to be one of his more excessive films.

The movie is about a slave named Django.  A dentist turned bounty hunter named Dr. King Shultz is interested in purchasing Django; Shultz needs Django to identify three wanted criminals.  If Django is willing to help, he’ll get $75 and his freedom, so off they go to find the three bounties.  Along the way, Django tells Shultz of his wife, Broomhilda.  She was sold to another plantation as punishment for the two of them trying to run away.

When Shultz realizes how good Django is with a gun, he makes a new proposition.  Django is granted his freedom and money as promised, but if he wants to make more money, the two can team up to find more bounties.  The warrants stipulate dead or alive, but Shultz has a preference for dead.  Django likes the idea of killing racist white people, so he agrees.  They spend the winter capturing bad guys and saving up money.

Turns out that Broomhilda has been sold to a plantation owner named Calvin Candie.  Candie is charming, but is not a nice person.  As such, he would probably not be inclined to sell Broomhilda because they asked nicely.  So, the two of them devise a plan to pose as potential buyers of Mandingo fighters.  As it happens, Shultz is German and Broomhilda was raised by Germans, hence the name.  Shultz will offer to buy Broomhilda so that he might have someone to talk with in German as a side offer.

At this point, it’s hard to continue with recounting the plot without giving everything away.  The movie does go on for a while, but I don’t want to ruin some of the most gory action scenes in the movie.  To say that this is not a movie for children is an understatement.  Being that Shultz and Django are bounty hunters that tend to prefer dead over alive, we get to see a lot of killing and Tarantino is not shy about showing us blood.

Add to this the issue of slavery and all of the associated derogatory terms.  Django isn’t comfortable posing as a potential buyer of slaves, although he knows that he has to do this in order to save the woman he loves.  We also get to see people fighting to the death.  There’s even one scene where a slave is fed to the dogs.  I don’t think many children could handle the themes or the imagery.  Even as an adult, there were scenes that were uncomfortable.

Also, I get the impression that Tarantino was going for style rather that historical detail.  Sunglasses didn’t appear in the United States for something like sixty years after the events of the movie.  In one scene, someone is shot and not only sent flying, but sent flying it what would seem like the wrong direction.  (You can go to IMDb and look at the goofs section for more, if you want.)

This is one of those movies where everything fits in that everything is so out of place.  Leonardo DiCaprio is not know for playing villains.  German dentists turned bounty hunters weren’t known for helping out slaves.  Slaves weren’t known for speaking German, for that matter.  My brother and I both wondered why Shultz was so nice to Django.  He could very easily have left Django after finding the brothers.  It seemed strange that everything came together so well, but it all made for one coherent, if long, movie.

That’s the other thing.  The movie is just under three hours.  Even after the plot that I recounted here, there’s still another hour of movie.  I was joking with my brother that we should have gone to CVS, mostly because we were running late.  We decided against since it was so late.  With the coming attractions and everything, we didn’t get out until around 1:40.  The movie didn’t really drag at all.  It’s just that we didn’t realize that it was going to be so late.  If I had known, I would have gotten something before going into the movie.

This is a movie that I probably would want to see with my grandmother, but I could definitely see going to see with friends.  It’s one of those movies that you’ll probably know going into it whether or not you’ll enjoy it.  You can know roughly what to expect without ruining the surprise. 

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