By Stacy Martin
Man’s inhumanity to man.
Rarely has a movie so aptly depicted it as does “Django Unchained.” If you see it, prepare to be bitch-slapped with the some of the worst brutality and cruelty that some Americans committed during this period in history.
The brilliant film so artfully characterizes the bloody, murderous and soul-sucking inhumanity that was slavery; the squeamish might want to stay away. It’s awfully hard to watch, knowing the savagery was all too real.
Set just before the Civil War, this movie progresses in such a shockingly effective fashion, it grabs the audience by the gut and won’t let go.
Quentin Tarantino begins with a quiet scene showing a small cadre of slaves shuffling through a darkened forest as fast as their shackled feet allow, knowing too well lagging would invite savage whipping – or worse. They are accompanied by three slave-owners on horses.
Enter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), silver-tongued, disarming dentist, who wishes only to buy one slave: Django. Slaves were considered “property” to be bought and sold. His verbal eloquence and gentle demeanor confuse and disarm the slave owners. They agree to sell.
After the deal is done, the audience is rocked as the doctor blazingly blows away two of the three owners and cripples the third. He is actually a bounty hunter who clearly despises slavery.
He unshackles the slaves, and then suggests they do what they will with their now-crippled tormentor, and do they ever.
The wily doctor employs clever ruses to track his prey. He immediately sets Django free, and then asks his help in tracking a band of three crooked brothers (because Django knows what they look like) for a fat bounty they’d share.
Foxx deliciously pulls off the transition from slave who can barely believe his luck to fearsome gunslinger. Of course, Schultz quickly recognizes his potential and invites him to partner in his pursuits.
But Django’s deepest desire is to avenge the treatment of his beloved wife (the beautiful Kerry Washington), who says more with her misty eyes than any dialogue ever could.
As the movie progresses, the horrors Schultz witnesses fuel his metamorphosis from mercenary to Django’s co-conspirator in cutting down evil slave-owners.
Among the worst happens to be Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Calvin Candie, who is ensconced in a giant, Deep South plantation, “Candieland” doubtless irony intended. He fully informs the role as a blood-thirsty, soulless plantation owner – evil incarnate.
Due to artful makeup, Samuel L. Jackson is physically unrecognizable as he disappears into his role as DiCaprio’s sycophant butler.
Foxx deserves an Oscar for Best Actor. Although DiCaprio gave a searing performance, it was the good doctor who devoured his role and is the one to beat for Best Supporting Actor, which would be his second after his win for “Inglourious Basterds.” His every utterance and expression is edge-of-your seat worthy.
The movie settles for no less than a series of viscerally, explosive events as the heroes roller coaster through emotional victories and crushing defeat.
The ending delivers.
This movie is intensely effective at eliciting strong emotion.
It makes it all too clear these events should never have been allowed to happen – exactly the reaction the moviemaker intended.
Director Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” will unhinge audiences
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