The Monocle – “Django Unchained”

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Released: December 25th, 2012
Theatre watched at: Downtown Disney AMC, Anaheim

Welcome back from a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years my Deer friends! I got some fantastic gifts this past Christmas; oversized clothes, a flash for my camera, and an all but necessary Apple TV to watch an endless stream of movie trailers with no shame. Now, I know we all eventually grow into the revelation that Santa isn’t real…but he is. How do I know this? Because within the last two weeks of 2012 some righteous deity, or so I thought, blessed the world with the spectacular Zero Dark Thirty–the year’s best film with only a handful of moments to spare until the new year. Lo and behold, right on Christmas day, on the very last week of 2012, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained whips into theaters and, oh my god, if lightning has never struck twice in the same place, then it has to be Santa’s sleigh backfiring.

Undoubtably his most daring film to date, Django Unchained is a mesmerizing and ultra-violent masterpiece of cinematic entertainment that handles his homage to spaghetti westerns with a Tarantino stamp of “panache.” Set two years before the  American Civil War, Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) is a dentist turned bounty hunter who despises slavery. He buys a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) to assist him in a bounty hunt and in return make Django a free man. Eventually, Django becomes Shultz’s accomplice and together they agree to rescue Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the evil plantation owner Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

This film is an absolute bloody blast from start to finish–a near three hour runtime has never passed me by so quickly. I have to start off by commending Christoph Waltz for his polished performance, it alone could be worth the price of admission. Dr. King Shultz has easily become one of my favorite Tarantino characters for the way Waltz portrays him as both a man of high sophistication (I love his exaggerated verbal articulation) and a straight up badass motherf*cker at the same time. Leo, one of our more masterful actors aching for an academy win these past few years, also does an extraordinary job playing the twisted, racist animal that is Calvin Candie. Pretty much the mirror opposite of Shultz, Candie thinks of himself as a man of sophistication, yet obvious to everyone else around him, he’s nothing more than a raging, sadistic business man who clearly spent his time as a young boy burning ants than reading books. Although probably the weakest of the bunch, Jamie Foxx’s “man of little words” portrayal of our hero Django is good enough to make the ladies faint–what can I say, he’s got the badass look down, more so than I probably could have taken if the role had gone to Will Smith.

As for execution, the film is classic Tarantino all the way in terms of glorious bloody action and shootouts as well as a witty and quite hilarious script. There’s a brilliant scene that depicts, in a slight twist of history, a group of masked marauders intended to mock the K.K.K., and in this scene the members have a long debate on whether or not to wear these silly white bags with eyeholes cut into them before they raid Shultz and Django. With a cameo appearance my the hilarious Jonah Hill, it’s destined to be one of the funniest moments in all of Tarantino’s films. Now fair warning, as I stated earlier the film is quite daring and has some extreme depictions (some may be inclined to even consider them as leaps) of the conditions of slavery during the time period. The word “nigger” is used extensively, multiple scenes involving graphic torturing of the slaves are shown, and Mandingo fights even become a part of the central narrative. Personally, I stand by the language and torture as a point of context in relation to American history, and although the Mandingo fighting I have a harder time swallowing, it’s a movie folks, and in no way are Tarantino’s films ever to be taken as writing in stone.

The music is absolutely outstanding and compliments the movie far more effectively than even the Inglorious Bastards soundtrack. Tarantino has constantly stated that he does not like having a composer do the entire soundtrack of a film in fear of not liking the work, so in part influence to his signature pop art style he usually has a mix of contemporary music with that of old spaghetti western style ballads, and what a soundtrack this is. He has every one from Rick Ross, to Anthony Hamilton, to John Legend, to Tupac, and even Ennio Morricone (who is an Italian composer who has worked on A Fist Full of Dollars andThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly). The best soundtrack of a motion picture this year and I hope it wins at the awards. Speaking of Tupac, the “Tarantino Shootout” scene in this film is so good and full of glorious blood and comic style that you wouldn’t think it could get better, until a remix of James Brown’s “The Payback” is mashed up with Tupac’s verse from “Untouchable” creating a blasting triumphant accompaniment to Django’s desperate attempt at surviving a hail storm of bullets.

There’s something to be said about a director who is able to take the phrase “too much” and appropriate it into a defining accolade of praise exclusively for his films. Django Unchained is nothing short of a modern, shining cinematic gem that radiates classic filmmaking with a contemporary embracement that aims to do one thing, entertain the sh*t out of you with respect for artistic filmmaking. Easily one of Tarantino’s best and one of the best films of 2012, the film almost serves as a warning shot–Tarantino has only now been unchained.

Bow Tie Approved

Bow Tie Score - 5.0