Phips’s review published on Letterboxd:
The finale of my 10-month Tarantino marathon
I've been waiting for this film for quite sometime and am very excited to finally see it. I remember when I heard Jaime Foxx was finally cast in the titular role and feeling let down and sorta disappointed. However, Christoph Waltz was already cast and that was incredibly reassuring as he is just brilliant, especially under the direction of Tarantino.
Well, Jaime Foxx proved me wrong. Totally. To be honest, I'm not sure why I thought we wouldn't be good. First of all, Tarantino selected him for a reason and I'm pretty sure he knows what he's doing. Secondly, Foxx has put in a lot of really good performances (Collateral, The Soloist, Horrible Bosses, Any Given Sunday, Shade, Law Abiding Citizen, and I haven't even seen Ray). So, Foxx highly impressed me and delivered an outstanding performance.
Christoph Waltz. I gotta say, this man is a genius. After knocking it out of the park in Inglourious Basterds (and deservedly getting an Oscar for his performance) he continued his hot streak with Carnage and now this. Once again he is cast as the highly intellectual, quirky, silver-tongued character. And, once again, he gives an Oscar-nom-worthy performance. I'm fully convinced this man can turn any role into a masterpiece.
Continuing with the cast, Tarantino saw fit to cast a handful of regulars like Zoe Bell, Michael Parks, James Parks, Samuel L. Jackson, and, of course, himself. Samuel L. Jackson had a much larger role than I thought he was going to, and I'm sure glad he did. He gave what I think is his best performance since Pulp Fiction, and I think he should get some Award recognition but he will most likely be passed over by the overshadowing Waltz. Don Johnson was also very awesome in his limited role and provided a great deal of comedy in his short time on screen; I wish we could have gotten more of his character.
Moving onto Leonardo DiCaprio. I got really really excited when I saw DiCaprio's and Tarantino's names together. How could that not be great? Well, sadly, it wasn't. DiCaprio's Calvin Candie was my least favorite main character here. While Leo did do a good job, I think the character is what threw me the most. I expected him to be more sinister..instead, he was just a bit of a fake-ass, unintelligent, spoiled Southerner. I don't know how to voice my disappointment with the character but it was just disappointing. Like I said, DiCaprio did well with what he was given but I think that character could've been expanded more. But what the hell do I know.
Aside from that, the only other "bad" part of this film was Tarantino himself. He cast himself as an Australian miner or something and it was just awful. His accent was atrocious and he was terribly overweight and disgusting.
Tarantino's two trademarks were ever-present here too. 1. Brilliant dialogue. 2. Great music. While not as long as the "fuckin' basement" scene of Inglourious Basterds, the opening discussion between the slavers and Waltz was masterful. The dialogue, and comedy, was impeccable. The music was just as good as all of his others films, which was a little surprising given the heavier-than-expected use of modern rap music.
Many may view this film and criticize Tarantino for his grandiose and "disgusting" use of blood but I am not one of those people; I was waiting for a huge, bloody showdown like the one we finally get at Candieland. While tamer than Kill Bill's bloodbath, Tarantino was still generous with the blood and the unrealistic flying bodies and limbs. Awesome. People may also take issue with the brutality shown towards the slaves in this film but, while a few sequences did make me a skosh squeamish, they were done in a way to honestly emphasize the violence of our nation's past and to fuel our desire for Django to succeed.
All in all, this was another outstanding product from Tarantino, one well worth the wait, and I can't wait for the next. If this thing doesn't pick up at least--at LEAST--one acting award at the Oscars (either Waltz or Foxx) and at least get nominations for screenplay and direction, it will be a travesty.
I really hope this spurns a string of well-made Western films as I have always loved them but they are few and far between these days.