Django Unchained reviews

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.

  • Child, Please

    You in your whittle post only confirmed what I said about QT and his movies. They serve to twist the publci’s thinking. You confirmed the guy was still enslaved for the most part (funny Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass (save the teaching him how to read aspect) got by quite fine). You also confirmed to me that this movie isn’t hardly worth my time. I won’t ever get the notion behind this guy’s films – slavery and the Holocaust being the subject or not. I’m not afraid to watch a movie that depicts history, but don’t make a mockery of it then turn around and say it’ll be serious and it’s this deep philosophical lesson that that I’ll tell my kids about. It makes me question his motives. Those that like his stuff will see it and love it; those that see QT for what he is just won’t. I’m sure you’ll live like the rest of us.

  • naan

    A deep.philosophical lesson? lol, no not at all… but that is.obviously the pressure YOU put on it bt thinking thete is something negative about it without ever seeing the movie. Also, you obviously didnt read the original comment where i told you he is not enslaved for most of the movie….

  • Lulu

    Like you said some people are still very uncomfortable with slavery and they have every right to be. The movie itself could be a cinematic masterpiece but if people are uncomfortable with the content it’s based on, don’t expect them to want to give it a chance or have any interest in it. End of story.

  • Sam

    SPOILER ALERT

    “does said white guy who helps free him remain with him to help him throughout?”

    Nope! That’s the funny bit. Starts with white guy (Christoph Waltz) as hero, Django as sidekick, but by an hour into the film the roles shift and pretty soon reverse completely. By the end, (‘NOTHER SPOILER) Django is completely on his own, choosing to return to save his wife and defeat the demons of white slavers on his own. As Tarantino literally said in a Root interview: “Anything else and he’s not the hero of the story.”

    Really, the white character is there to trick an audience used to seeing a pack of servile Tontos and Fridays. We think Waltz will be the main character and are impatient for Django to assert himself, and then observe their relationship slowly shift from mentor/student to friendship between equals to Django as hero and Waltz as sidekick and finally to Django becoming the lone hero in his own right. Waltz is a “good” twenty-first century white man, automatically repulsed by slavery and willing to help Django due to his “modern” attitudes, but ultimately unprepared for and ignorant of the true physicality and repulsiveness of slavery. This is why Django, a former slave hardened by slavery and willing to go as far as he has to to rescue his wife ultimately becomes the true hero. Waltz’s 21st century white man is able to help, but ultimately, no matter how enlightened, he is not strong enough to endure and conquer the horror of slavery up close, as only our black hero can.

    Seriously! I have a lot of reservations with Tarantino and didn’t like Inglorious Basterds, but this film was one enormous punch in the face to the white savior trope.

  • The Other Jess

    “IN FACT, though sex slaves, Black women are depicted as highly attractive— wearing makeup, nice expensive clothes, hair styles, etc.”

    And that, in a nutshell, is one of the main problems I have with this movie. The continuation of the LIE that enslaved Black women were these pampered, dressed up princesses beholden to white men, and regularly treated better than enslaved Black men is blatantly false and extremely DANGEROUS to us as Black women. False depictions such as this make Black men continue to HATE us, because so many of them already believe that they as Black men were the REAL victims of slavery, while Black women got some sort of special treatment – which is FALSE garbage if I ever so heard.

    While black women were regularly RAPED or SEXUALLY COERCED during slavery, this was no willing sex act and they were not wearing frilly beautiful dresses like the white female head of households. You all do NOT know anything about your history and this Hollywood ignorance is what will keep Black women in danger from our own men based on false be;iefs about what happened during slavery (in addition to the violence and hate we already receive from Black men for everything unrelated to slavery).

    Sure, in an extremely few places like New Orleans, Black women AND men were able to achieve a much higher social and economic status, and openly have consenting sexual relations to a degree (octoroon balls, etc) and even marriages with whites, once they stepped foot out of New orleans they were in danger of being enslaved again.

    Django Unchained will do much damage to further the jealousies, hatred and divisions for Black women among Black men, as well as trivializes a terrible aspect of American history.

    Read a book people – find out the real history of black people and stop relying on a Hollywood entertainer to doa poor job teaching Black history.

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