Django Unchained Review

Django UnchainedThis review has spoilers. The movie begins with two slave traders guiding male slaves, like cattle, through the harsh, rocky, terrain of old Texas. At nightfall they run into Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German, traveling by horse and specialized buggy with a huge tooth on top; he’s a dentist. He speaks to the slavers, then the slaves asking if anyone had come from the Carrucan Plantation. Django (Jamie Foxx), speaks up, and that’s where the adventure begins.

Django Dr Schultz We discover at the same time as Django, that Dr. Schultz is a bounty hunter. He gives Django his freedom for helping him with a bounty, and then recruits him. They travel from Texas to Mississippi to save Django’s wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), from the Candie Plantation, aka Candyland, run by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio with his fine self).

Django BroomhildaDjango and Schultz intend to scam Candie out of Broomhilda. Candie is involved in “Mandingo fighting” where two slaves fight to the death for the entertainment and monetary loss or gain of their owners. When we meet Candie he’s sitting in a parlor with an air of civility, watching a brawl so vicious, and bloody that I had to close my eyes. Even that couldn’t hide me from the brutality, as I heard bones break and the terrified sounds of a man knowing he must kill his opponent or die himself.

Their ruse is a feigned interest in buying a Mandingo fighter from Candie for $12,000 and then to add Broomhilda on. Their plan however, is thwarted once they go to Candies home, by a house negro named Stephen (Samuel Jackson), or Snowball, as Django calls him, who during dinner, suspects that Broomhilda and Django know each other, and that she’s the real reason they want to do business.
Django Candie 2 Django Samuel Jackson

Stephen calls Candie into the library to tell him his suspicions. Candie is furious because he’s been made a fool of—but he still wants to get paid. He goes back to the dinner, pulls out a skull and in classic Tarantino style, gives a speech that begins with a question (one that I wondered throughout the movie and my life); “Why don’t they just kill us?” He goes into speech explaining the phrenology of the skull of an African versus anyone or anything else on the planet. According to Candie the brain of an African is one suited for servitude. He then leverages a deal for Broomhilda and $12,000 later she has her freedom papers. I say leverage, but there’s loads of fear and action in that deal.

Candie, after signing the papers won’t allow the trio to leave the house until Schultz shakes his hand. Schultz is thoroughly disgusted by Candie and slavery as a whole it appears, and during their encounter keeps having flashbacks of a scene earlier of a Mandingo who tried to run away, was caught and torn apart by Candie’s dogs (another scene that caused me to close my eyes). In an act that he has to know he won’t come back from, Schultz shoots and kills Candie. Stephen’s reaction caused me to burst into laughter, but then tears immediately filled my eyes as Candie’s right hand shoots and kills Schultz.

Django goes on a killing spree for the ages! Blood everywhere! And you want him to do it! You want him to kill every last of them.
He’s stopped when Stephen tells him that they have Broomhilda hostage, and he sees the gun to her head. He gives up.

We next see Djengo hung by his feet with a contraption covering most of his face. One of Candie’s men is about to slice his manhood away when Stephen steps in and says Candie’s sister has decided against castration and instead wants him to be sent to a mining company.

Three representatives of the mining company take Djengo along with three slaves. During the trip Djengo convinces them that he’s not a slave and that he’s a bounty hunter and that there’s bounty to be had back at the plantation. He manages to get them to not only willingly cut him loose, but to also give him a gun, which he promptly uses to kill them.

He makes a classic cowboy bareback journey back to the plantation, kills all the overseers, rescues his wife in a scene so awesome that I could watch it over and over again, and then kills everyone else that deserves it.

Django and Broomhilda don’t ride off into the sunset. They ride off into the night.

Django Don Johnson There are brief appearances by Don Johnson, who did a most excellent job playing plantation owner Big Daddy, and Bruce Dern from the Carrucan Plantation. Tarantino pays homage to the 1966, spaghetti western, Django with a cameo appearance by Franco Nero; the original Django.
Django and Django

Django 1966

I am in love with this movie! I cannot wait for the dvd. I felt pride and a sense of vindication at the end. The direction of this movie is outstanding. The acting is awesome. The setting, the dialogue, the storyline, are all superb. Part of Tarantino’s genius is how he managed to make me laugh by showing human stupidity, and make me cry by showing its cruelty. I’d recommend this movie to every American adult. Especially those of us who are generations deep in this country, and are the progeny of the slave/master relationship that founded our country. This is American cinema.

People will be offended. Whatever! I watched it with my mother who was alive during the civil rights era and has a serious aversion to the “n” word. She absolutely loved this movie. I’ve never heard her use it and she doesn’t like to hear others use it. Even she understood that the movie would’ve lost its realistic bite without it.

Django QT

I’d love to see more movies about this part of our history. We need to stop running from it. Those of us who are descendants of African slaves and their European masters, need to embrace who we are. We can’t grow if we allow ourselves to be stunted by being afraid of our past. We all need to accept who we really are and the role our ancestors played in the creation of this country. It was systematic political and social evil that built his country. There’s no way around that. But we can grow from it and become a better nation—if we are truly able to heal. Healing is a painful journey. But it’s not anymore painful than what we are healing from.

Side notes:
1. I couldn’t help but to want to know my complete family’s history. I started feeling that way while reading the script and the movie only served to propagate my curiosity. I have to know now. How exactly was it that my family gained their freedom? Did anyone buy their way out? Who were my ancestors? Who were the people that owned them? How were they treated? They were bought and sold; to and from whom? I have so many questions that I never thought to ask. So much research that I just have to do. My last name is English. My mother’s maiden name is Irish. Who were these people that gave us these names? There is just so much I want to know. I’d love to meet a descendant of the English and Irish masters that owned my family. Not with any malice, but just to see a part of my history. To see whose story is intertwined with mine.

2. I was fortunate enough to read the screenplay for this wonderful movie about a week before it was released. It gripped me from beginning to end and I could not wait to see Quentin Tarantino’s vision on the big screen. There were some distinct changes from the script. None of it takes away from the movie, but the script was so good, that I suggest reading it if you just can’t get enough of the movie. The script has the story of how Broomhilda got to Candyland, which could be its own movie. It also has powerful scenes from a slave auction, and what really happened to Broomhilda at the Carrucan Plantation. But had the entire script been turned into a film it would’ve been six hours long—and I would’ve watched every minute of it.

3. Phrenology is a pseudoscience that was often used as the substantiation of the superiority of the European brain over any other. Phrenology prefers nature versus nurture and contends that the reason people behave the way they do is based on brain size, and the theory that the brain has 27 organs. Slavery could be completely justified because the mind of an African was inferior, and unable to be creative, or intelligent. It wasn’t appropriate for anything else.

Five out of five stars! See it!

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2 thoughts on “Django Unchained Review

  1. I agree, I the movie was excellent. I was rooting for Django the entire time. Yes,we must stop running from our past and embrace it, if for no other reason than our own personal dissection, and understanding. Sometimes, we get so determined to run from whence we came, we lose sight on where we are. The past is the future. Great review.

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