I'm not a big fan of Tarantino. Sure, I like a lot of his work, but I'm not a "big fan". I don't blindly worship him. Some of his films I've liked, others have left me wondering what all the fuss was about.
But in the case of "Django Unchained" he's converted me. It is a masterpiece.
Yes, it is incredibly violent and raw at the best of times. But, unlike with his last big screen outing "Inglourious Basterds", the violence doesn't feel quite so gratuitous. Yes, it is shocking, but so is the subject matter.
The film's story unfolds a couple of years before the American Civil War. Slavery was legal and it was far from pretty. While a lot of Hollywood films have touched on slavery in the past I don't recall any that have really got up so close and revealed the raw realities. Life was cheap, in fact it had a price.
Warning - if you haven't seen the film yet then you might not want to read on, as there are spoilers!
The film's premise is quite odd, but it's a Tarantino film, so the surprises are to be expected.
Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave who while being transported meets Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German dentist turned bounty hunter. After "acquiring" Django from the slavers they enter into a simple pact. In return for Django helping Schultz identify his targets Schultz will grant Django his freedom. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that Django's role will quickly morph from being mere facilitator to active participant and he quickly ends up as Schultz's partner. Their original pact is set to one side and they work together to help reunite Django with his wife, Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington).
Foxx's Django fills the screen. As the story unfolds, so his character seems to almost evolve before your eyes. He goes from downtrodden slave to something quite different.
Christoph Waltz is excellent as Shultz (he also picked up an Oscar nomination for his performance).
Leonardo Di Caprio is perfect as the rather evil, yet almost charming, southern gentleman, Calvin J. Candie. He seems to almost revel in being a racist bigot who is as rich as he is cruel.
Samuel L Jackson's role as Stephen is strange. He's black, he's a slave, but he's also loyal to Candie. It's a fantastic performance and worth watching the film at least once more to just pick up on the subtleties you may have missed on a single viewing.
The soundtrack is worth mentioning, as it combines Morricone western sounds with much more contemporary tracks.
Apart from the soundtrack, the audio throughout the film is worth mentioning as it helps to drive home the brutality and the atmosphere of many of the scenes.
Of course the movie is up for a bunch of Oscars and while it probably won't win all of them I'd be very surprised if it didn't pick up a couple of the "bigger" ones.. we'll know more about that next month.
So in summary, Django Unchained is fantastic. It's gritty, it's raw, it's violent and it will probably shock you in several places, but it's worth it.