Last year when the script for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was leaked, many black bloggers and writers were concerned. The film was called a “dark buddy comedy” and a “slavery revenge epic” and most folks just weren’t sure how Tarantino would handle a script that dealt with the horrors of pre-civil war America.
Back then, Tambay Obenson of the film blog Shadow & Act, criticized the script for its “superficial and gratuitous” look at slavery, which included several scenes where Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) was naked for no real reason expect to flash some skin, and Django (Jamie Foxx), the film’s title character, relied heavily on the guidance of a white man.
To say that many, including myself, were extremely skeptical at how the film would turn out would be an understatement. I was prepared to hate Django Unchained before the first clip had even been released, but after seeing the film last week, I can now admit I was wrong.
The plot of Django Unchained is simple. Through a twist of fate, a German bounty hunter, Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz), purchases Django because he is one of the few people who have seen a trio of brothers Dr. Schultz is trying to capture. While they hunt down the brothers, Django and Dr. Schultz form a friendship and hatch a plan to locate Broomhilda and free her from captivity.
Though it doesn’t seem like enough of a plot to stretch into a two-hour-and-forty-five minute film, somehow Tarantino manages to keep audiences engaged throughout.
Let’s get a few things straight, though. If you dislike Tarantino films, you will not like Django. The film is bloody, there are several long and gory shoot-outs, the dialogue is fraught with expletives, and if you cringe at the thought of the n-word tumbling from nearly every character’s mouth (remember, this was the Antebellum period), then you might want to keep your money in your pocket.
But if you want to see a film in which the black lead character doesn’t need to be “saved” by some well-meaning white person (ehem, The Help), but is a complete badass who takes fate into his own hands, then you just might enjoy Django.
Speaking of being saved, while the film is set in the pre-Civil War South and slavery is interwoven throughout the story, the film is not about slavery. If you head into Django Unchained, thinking you’re going to learn something new or enlightening or see a film akin to Roots or Nat Turner’s revenge, you won’t. Slavery is a part of the story; it is not the whole story.
And while I wasn’t sure I was ready to see the horrors and inhumanities of slavery depicted on the big screen (or being interpreted by Tarantino), I was pleased to see that many of the scenes from the original script (i.e. Broomhilda being repeatedly raped) were absent from the film. However, when the atrocities of slavery are shown, the scenes are brief but searing.
From Foxx’s commanding performance as Django, to Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson’s scene-stealing portrayals of Calvin Candie and his loyal house slave/confidant Stephen, Django Unchanged takes viewers on a hyper-violent, oft times riveting, sometimes comical, gloriously entertaining romp through the South.