A Spaghetti western-inspired story with an antebellum Deep South backdrop; a mock epic and revisionist homage that rewrites the past in a revenge fantasy (that couples with 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds”); or an ultraviolent tale of heroism, retribution and justice that draws clear lines between what’s good, bad or ugly – call it what you want because “Django Unchained” delivers, indulging in bloodshed, reflecting on the atrocity of slavery and reveling in the eponymous hero’s uprising.
As a filmmaker that cares about his filmography as a whole, Tarantino inverts conventions to produce something radical, showing no signs of slowing down in a stylized, pointed subversion of supremacy (this time White). Moving from the Apache-resistance in the Basterds’ Jewish-American troupe of killers to the lone and brutally suppressed Django (Jamie Foxx), along with the help of bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), Tarantino tells a satisfying story of resistance, one that is personal and intimate while also being all encompassing as a film set in a time of slavery.
In a linear narrative, Django must go on a journey to save his wife Broomhilda from Candyland, a plantation owned with flair and pomp by Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio who commands attention and steals every scene. Samuel L. Jackson parades as Stephen, Candie’s second-in-command and confidante, who will also make you laugh and cringe. These stand-out characters own the stage they are given, but Django’s frustration and growing sense of pride develops as the film does. However, revenge is never a straight line. Although some scenes of brutality may be hard to witness, Tarantino portrays them with honesty and a sense of disgust, setting up the bad to be vanquished by a quicker draw.
Wiggle your toes and get to the theater in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, faster than you can say blueberry pie. Savor “Django Unchained” as a way to end the year or start the new one: It’s so fun that it’ll explode your heart and take your scalp off.
Five out of five torches