It is quite surprising if you watch any of Quentin Tarantino’s films that he has not made a western before now. Much of his influences in past films are quite evidently from the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. So, when it finally came time for him to direct his first true western one would expect it to be pretty good. Luckily all the practice Tarantino has had before paid off in one of his best films to date.
Django is a straight up revenge western much like Kill Bill. It is about a slave, Django(Jamie Foxx), who is freed by a bounty hunter(Christoph Waltz) to help him track down 3 brothers that only Django has seen. In exchange for helping him, the bounty hunter teaches Django his ways and promises to help him get his wife back from a ruthless plantation owner, Calvin Candie(Leonardo DiCaprio) at his plantation Candieland.
I think one of the main reasons that this film works better then a lot of Tarantino’s other films is that it is so straight forward with a tight group of characters. What I have noticed in the past is Tarantino tends to have a lot of characters in his films and he ends up jumping around a lot, which makes it hard to follow and connect with the people. This time around the story really follows more of a traditional story path with beginning, middle, and end. This helps in following the story and prevents people from having to think constantly about where they are in the film. Also the cast is limited to a handle full of players and you know who each of them are, so you can connect with them better.
Another thing that makes this one of Tarantino’s best films to date is the casting. Jamie Foxx plays the main character Django and he does it pretty well. The character doesn’t have a lot of depth to begin with, so for Foxx to be able to make him such a likeable character is a testament to Foxx. Django is mostly angry through the movie, but with a few looks from Foxx he shows an underlying humor and curiosity in the character. The real shining star of the film though is Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz. He has managed to create another memorable character in line with Col. Hans Landa from Inglorious Bastards. There is just something about Waltz that he can play the weirdest characters, but somehow still make them so likeable. The way that Waltz reacts in every situation he is put in is great. He somehow knows how to bring an ease and humor out of the tensest moments. Going toe to toe with Waltz is Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie. This character is so despicable it is hard to find any saving qualities in him, but somehow that makes him appealing as a character. Somehow, DiCaprio playing a villain for the first time makes this character so interesting that regardless of what he says or does, you want to see more of him. Some of the best scenes are between DiCaprio and Waltz. Before this movie I wouldn’t have thought that combining DiCaprio with Tarantino would be an interesting thing, but now I would say it is pure gold and would love to see it again.
The rest of the supporting cast is made up of Samuel Jackson as the evil house slave, which is just a supporting character, but practically steals every scene he is in. Also playing Django’s wife, Broomhilda, is Kerry Washington. She doesn’t have a lot to do in this movie other than be the damsel in distress, but the few scenes she has work well with Jamie Foxx.
Even though this is a western one should know going into it that it is still a Tarantino film. What that means is there are a lot of long winded conversations between people. Luckily, much of the talk is quite funny and entertaining. The film never feels as long as it is, which is quite long at 2 hours and 45 mins. Not to worry though because there is also a lot of action too and all of it is top notch. Since it is a western you can expect a shoot out at the end and this one does not disappoint. At times it might be a little over the top but for some reason it still works.
Any fan of Tarantino should make this a must see, as well as those that enjoy westerns like True Grit. It’s about time that Quentin Tarantino tackled the genre that has influenced much of his other films and after the final results let’s hope this isn’t the only time he goes this route.
5 out of 5