There’s something about Quentin Tarantino’s films that grows on you until you go wow. And then you wonder a bit. After all, he’s one of those few directors who write as brilliantly as he directs. His vision remains undiluted and it shows on the canvas. While he’s at it, he makes sure the entertainment factors don’t compromise themselves under the heavy burden of a message to be delivered. And this is precisely what he has done with Django Unchained.
Released with a few cuts in India, this period film has all the ingredients of a typical Tarantino venture. However, none of them are predictable and the pace is maintained throughout. The story beautifully weaves forward from an affable bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and his calculated eccentricities to a former slave (Jamie Foxx) and his quest to free his wife (Kerry Washington). Set to the south of Mason-Dixon line in an era where racism was the unwritten code of life, an unlikely friendship blossoms between the two protagonists. Both are quick with guns, motivated, smart and possess colourful shades of humanity.
During their horseback journey together, they come across several characters — one more evil than the other — allowing humour and action to mingle wholeheartedly. To get what they want, a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) has to be fooled as he technically owns the hero’s wife. But his Man Friday (Samuel L Jackson) won’t let that happen. At least not without a fight. No wonder that there are delightful rounds of mind games, witty dialogues and bloodshed. Speaking of which, blood spills like ketchup and the body count only keeps increasing.
Intriguingly, racism shadows this marvelous piece of cinema from the beginning to the end. But historical realities don’t deny the bare setting and that works in the writer-director’s favour. When you pitch a black gunslinger with a German ally against a Francophile American with a black attendant, the racial closure is basically neutral. Meanwhile, the background score and songs contribute to the Western drama.
Speaking of performances, Waltz takes the cherry for his remarkable portrayal of someone who believes in goodness more than his skin. Foxx comes across as a sturdy sharpshooter who won’t leave anything to chance. Playing a villain for the first time in his career, DiCaprio is menacing while Jackson is equally brilliant. Washington’s character appears inconsistent. She switches from grief to euphoria like a baby.
The film could have finished quicker as the finale seems unnecessarily draggy. But then, it’s okay to let a filmmaker like Tarantino indulge a bit and let us wonder a bit more.