Django Unchained

Django Unchained ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"Don't break character."

Tarantino, never one to shy away from self-indulgence or long-windedness, kind of bungles the pacing, but the thread about black character agency is so powerful that its value as an essay may outlive its value as pop entertainment. Dr. King Schultz frees Django, but on an early mission asks him, directs him even, to play the role of his servant. This is something their white audiences will be comfortable with. As time goes on his roles become more complex, Django's contribution to developing his character becomes greater and more independent. So much so that even the liberal, level-headed Dr. Schultz has to have a meeting on the mound with Django on their ride to Candyland after some particularly bold, dangerous character embellishments. "You mind telling me what in the hell you are donig?" he chides. "I'm getting dirty." Django has entered the exploitation era, and found in Calvin Candie a racist audience at once threatened and intrigued by his performance. Candie isn't the only one who notices. Cutaways to black audiences turning their heads, wide-eyed in disbelief start to accumulate. Django appears, in flickering light, in the doorway, a hero, but a hero of Dr. Schultz making. It's only in the structurally superfluous, but thematically necessary final 20 minutes that Django has fully self-actualized: through his own guile, his own storytelling, he outfoxes the Australian slavetraders (and not coincidentally blows up the writer/director of the movie we're watching). Unchained literally and figuratively, he's now truly free to be Django, the hero. Not Black Django, not Django the sidekick, not Django playing a character. Just Django.

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