Movie Review - Django Unchained

Last night I got a chance to see an advance screening of Django Unchained, written & directed by Quentin Tarantino. The movie stars Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

This film has received a ton of press since it was first announced, but if you missed all that, he's a synopsis:

Django is a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. The unorthodox Schultz acquires Django with a promise to free him upon the capture of the Brittles -- dead or alive. Success leads Schultz to free Django, though the two men choose not to go their separate ways. Instead, Schultz seeks out the South's most wanted criminals with Django by his side. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda, the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz's search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie, the proprietor of "Candyland," an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen, Candie's trusted house slave. Their moves are marked, and a treacherous organization closes in on them. If Django and Schultz are to escape with Broomhilda, they must choose between independence and solidarity, between sacrifice and survival...

When I first heard about this film, I was on the fence. I have a love-hate relationship with Tarantino - some of his films I love (Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs) & some annoy the crap outta me (Pulp Fiction). Anytime someone makes a movie about slavery, its tricky because its such a sore spot for Americans of all races. I wondered if Tarantino would be able to get this story "right"...and then I wondered what "right" even was in this context. So I took a wait & see approach. I was hanging on the Twitter one day when I saw a tweet about a screening & managed to snag two passes on Gofobo. The screening was held at the Showplace ICON theater, which is my fave theater in the Twin Cities. The theater was full but my friend & I snagged some pretty good seats - closer than I like to sit but still a good viewing experience.

I'm glad I went into this film with an open mind, because it wasn't at all what I expected. I expected a somber tome, with uncomfortable scenes & me leaving the theater pissed off. Instead I found an engaging story, which handled a different topic (slavery) in a way that wasn't overly heavy & depressing. In fact, many scenes were comedic & I found myself laughing more than I thought I would. Now, there are some scenes that are difficult to watch - not because of the slavery factor, but because of the violence, blood & gore. I had my eyes covered several times during the movie because I know there are things I can't watch.

This film is dominated by Django (Foxx) & Schultz (Christoph Waltz) & both actors are convincing & work well together. This is probably Foxx's best acting performance since his Oscar-winning performance in Ray. Kerry Washington, who was his costar in Ray, has a smaller part than I expected, and really doesn't get to show her range in the role. But I always enjoy seeing her on-screen. DiCaprio doesn't disappoint as plantation owner Calvin Candie, but Samuel L Jackson, playing Candie's elderly slave Stephen, steals the show in his scenes. The best way I can describe his character is Uncle Ruckus from the Boondocks.

This is not a Christmas Day movie. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A CHRISTMAS DAY MOVIE!

There is a lot of graphic violence, blood, gore, etc. When I think Christmas, I don't think graphic gunfights, so I'm surprised this film is opening on Christmas Day. Unless you have a stomach of steel & aren't shocked by anything, I don't suggest you see it with the family after you've opened presents. Definitely don't bring the kids! This movie is way too much for kids, even tweens. I'd suggest teenagers & up see this film.

Overall, this film is on my Tarantino love list. Totally unexpected, entertaining, great acting & even a great soundtrack. Instead of leaving the theater pissed off like I expected, I left rooting for Django & thoroughly entertained. This is definitely a film to see.

Have you seen Django Unchained? Will you go see it? Leave your thoughts!