Tarantino unleashes his best movie yet, ‘Django Unchained’

Quentin Tarantino makes B-movie pictures with A+ scripts. That’s how he has consistently gained a rabid base of foaming-at-the-mouth fans, and “Django Unchained” should satisfy those hungry cinephiles.

“Django” is the story of a slave turned bounty hunter set on rescuing his wife from Candieland, a large plantation owned by a Francophile played by the nearly unrecognizable Leonardo DiCaprio.

The first half of the film is a humorous tale of bounty hunting with a slew of unique characters confronting the two anti-heroes, Django and Dr. Schultz. “Django” is easily Tarantino’s funniest film to date with comedic range from slapstick to observational. Tarantino has always had humorous scenes in his films, but “Django” showcases how superior Tarantino is at making film funny. One particularly hilarious yet uncomfortable scene featuring a recognizable white-hooded group brings the most laughs, but the standout comedy performer is the exceptional Christoph Waltz, who last worked with Tarantino on “Inglourious Basterds” as the villainous Col. Hans Landa.

Waltz takes on an exponentially more heroic role as Dr. King Schultz, a non-racist bounty hunter — a character that absorbs the screen with a dry humor, salt-and-pepper beard and a particular goofy horse and carriage topped with a springy tooth.

Waltz doesn’t simply steal a scene when he’s on screen. He takes it and no one will ever question that it wasn’t his in the first place.

Along with Dr. Schultz for a thrilling adventure is the unlikely hero, Django, played by Jamie Foxx. Foxx is known amongst most pop culture aficionados, but “Django Unchained” is Foxx’s true arrival. Foxx manages to hold his own with Waltz.

While Waltz’s words walk away with the film, it is Foxx’s piercing stares and natural charisma that make it impossible to avoid being mesmerized by his performance. He will make audiences curious, and when he booms through the theater, “I’m curious, what makes you so curious?” they’re sure to shudder.

The only person who has a similar effect is Monsieur Calvin Candie. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Candie is a vicious slave owner who showcases both a racist power and a gentle vulnerability, making the man all the more unpredictable. This is DiCaprio’s best role in recent years, but also his most ruthless. DiCaprio does not often escape behind makeup and facial hair, because he’s a leading man. “Django Unchained,” however, lets the actor release a talent not seen often enough.

DiCaprio’s handsome persona is hidden by a hideous human both on the inside and outside. I hope Tarantino has opened a Pandora’s box of potential for DiCaprio, leaving behind the stereotypical handsome lead.

When Candie enters the picture the tone shifts quickly as if a light switches. Tarantino says the most in the final half of his film as he explores the brutal realities of slavery. The humor is present in scenes at Candieland, but is more awkward than before.

The tension created in the scenes gives an audience the feeling that DiCaprio may snap at them for simply snickering. This switch might be particularly jarring, but if you pay attention this is one of Tarantino’s most polished pieces of filmmaking on par with “Inglourious Basterds.”

The soundtrack sporadically switches from modern music to a classic Western score, but never distracts, just as a Tarantino original should. Additionally, the film is a bloody good time, but it’s often done with such cartoonish style that it’s not difficult to watch.

“Django Unchained” is entertaining, harrowing and reflective. The film also might be Tarantino’s best yet, but only time will tell as audiences wait for another potential return to historic vengeance.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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