Last night I noticed that Twitter was abuzz with Spike Lee’s “observation” that Django Unchained was about the “holocaust” endured by his ancestors. He criticized the movie for glamorizing the centuries of slaughter endured by slaves in America . . . even though he had not seen the film. All of this was right before I stepped into the screening of Tarantino’s latest revenge fantasy starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Christoph Waltz.
To be perfectly frank, I think Lee is right, but that discussion is one I will leave to the social critics and historians who will argue over whether Tarantino has done a disservice to the true meaning of the legacy of slavery in the United States. On its own terms as both a movie and a work of art, however, there can be little doubt that Django Unchained is one helluva piece of entertainment. Part love story, part action thriller, and part historical epic, this is a movie that deserves – nee, demands – to be seen.
The story begins two years before the Civil War when a slave named Django (Foxx) is recruited by a German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (played by the amazing Christoph Waltz – and no, I don’t know if the name “Dr. King” is an obvious pun or not) who is seeking out Django’s former owners. Django agrees to help Schultz if he helps him track down his beloved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who was sold in the slave trade long ago. Their journey ultimately takes them to a plantation known as “Candyland”, the home of the famous Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) where, to put it mildly, all Hell breaks loose.
Like all Tarantino movies, much of the build up exists only for the main characters to exact their revenge. You won’t be surprised that they get what they want – you just might squirm in your seat as you watch them slice, dice, and shoot their way to justice. There are one too many monologues in the movie than I would have liked (Tarantino is not known for his subtlety) but he basically makes the very broad point that Slavery is Bad and Love Conquers All. In the end, you’ll be exhausted by nearly three hours of bloodlust and revenge, but it’s not a movie you’ll forget any time soon.