Suspension of Disbelief: Django Unchained
First off, technically you shouldn’t be watching this movie unless you’re over 18, but I’m going to let that pass, because you should see it anyway, as long as you’re not squeamish that is, this is Quentin Tarantino after all. Django Unchained is the newest in Tarantino’s onslaught of revenge movies and focuses on a freed slave on his way to find his wife, Broomhilda, and free her.
Now, Tarantino has his critics and this film in particular caused a stir due to its controversial topic. That there ever was a slave trade is a despicable fact that is unfortunately a huge part of human history. Tarantino takes some liberties with the way he portrays it in this film, but only in the sense that he’s writing alternate history, as he did in inglorious basterds, and fiction is always going to have distance from reality. It is a brutal movie, and it’s supposed to be, but slavery was orders of magnitude more brutal, and to tone the movie down would take something away from this reflection on a very dark period in world, and in this case, North American history.
Django (played by the fantastic Jamie Foxx, who, between this and Ray, I have come to really like as an actor) starts off the movie in chains (as the title might suggest), but when dentist-turned-bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz comes looking for someone to identify his next targets he begins a career in revenge, where he quickly learns how to handle a gun and use it to kill wanted criminals, in Dr. Schultz’s company. His friend and colleague offers, after learning about his past and freeing him, to help him rescue his German speaking wife, after a winter bounty hunting, and the viewer is transported to the despicable world of Candyland, in which we learn that Leonardo DiCaprio plays a mind-blowing villain, and we witness a probably-non-existant-in-our-world-due-to-economic-reasons, brutal sport called ‘mandingo fighting’, where strong slaves beat each other to death. This is very hard to watch, and intentionally so, and the sad fact is that the main reason this was absent from our world was probably because the slave owners would see it as ‘loss of property’ and not the severe proclamation of inhumanity that it is.
I’ve heard complaints about the lack of prominent black roles in the movie, and that’s understandable, it is a movie about slavery after all, and there are three black actors who play a prominent role in the story, but they are living in a world dominated by white men, both societally and prolifically. It is not a dig to have many white people in the cast, as far as I can tell, but a portrayal of a dark world where a whole race is judged inferior and deemed to be less human and more property. The complaints about the N-bomb dropping so many times is more understandable, although I would defend it for the same reasons, this is a brutal world where black people are regarded terribly, and, as Tarantino has said himself, he wanted his storytelling to be ‘honest’, and a word, however loaded, is far less horrible than what the slave trade did to its slaves.
I don’t mean to brood much on the complaints, but I feel like I must address them, because they have been surprisingly vocal for such a provocative, heartbreaking, and at times hilarious movie. The scene with the KKK (set before the formation of the group) was so funny there wasn’t a single person in the theater who wasn’t laughing, but perhaps the most memorable moments of the film are where we witness the true horror of the period in our history Tarantino is addressing.
I can’t recommend this movie enough, it pushes all the right buttons, breaks new ground for how much blood is allowed to cover one set, and features some of the most incredible performances and scenes that I have seen anywhere.
I give this five Jonah Hill cameos out of five.