Django Unchained ★★★★★

This is my third or fourth time watching Django Unchained and it's still managed to hold as much power as the first time I saw it. It's really nice to see that Tarantino is finally making his way out of his mid-2000's slump. After the frankly disappointing Kill Bill Vol. 2 and the underwhelming Death Proof, he began to show a return to form with the excellent Inglorious Basterds, but even that, in my opinion, doesn't reach the level of Django Unchained, which is probably my favorite Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction.

As Tarantino films go, this one is relatively straightforward, following a simple revenge story that's allowed to play itself out without the added convolution of nonlinear storytelling. Don't get me wrong, Tarantino handles a twisty-turny narrative like no other, always to marvelous effect, but the straightforward approach when it comes to Django really allows its characters to shine. I continue to be pleasantly impressed with Jamie Foxx's performance as the eponymous Django. He brings a quiet ferocity to the role and more than holds his own next to his larger-than-life fellow cast members and knows how to work with what he's given. Unfortunately, the character of Django himself is pretty underdeveloped, so Foxx doesn't have much to work with and easily falls into the shadows of the true stars of the film: Christoph Waltz and Leo DiCaprio. Waltz fabulously shows off his acting range by gamely taking on the role of the hero rather than his last Tarantino outing as the delightfully dubious Hans Landa. His cheerful, quirky, mannered demeanor provides an excellent foil for Leo's maniacal and quick-tempered villain, Calvin Candie. I legitimately enjoy Leo in pretty much everything he's in, but his turn as the bad guy is probably my favorite of his roles. He eagerly dives into the character, holding nothing back and the result is a treat to watch. He and Waltz make that dinner scene the highlight of the film. Samuel L. Jackson's relatively brief appearance is a real tour de force as well.

Tarantino once again shows his prowess at creating tension, namely the scene I just mentioned, which always manages to keep me on the edge of my seat. At this point, his superb script writing barely needs to be mentioned as this is one field he's never dropped the ball in. One of the most common complaints about Django is that it's too long or bloated, but for me, it feels just right. Tarantino delivers enough excitement, humor, gore, and purpose that Django never bores me. It has a perfect balance of over the top grindhouse violence, nail-biting tension, and the smart, witty Tarantino dialogue that we all know and love. I firmly believe that Spike Lee's childish boycott of this film was misguided, because I think he just completely missed the point. But my dislike of Spike Lee is well noted so I may be a little biased. Regardless, I hope that ol' QT can crank out a couple more films of this caliber before he retires.

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