'Django Unchained' (2012) Movie Review

Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained
Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained
Photo: The Weinstein Co.

There are few filmmakers you can count on for a unique vision at the cinema these days. As a result, I sometimes have a hard time preparing myself when such an occasion occurs, and while you can never quite prepare for a Quentin Tarantino movie, there are aspects of Django Unchained that certainly caught me off guard.

Is it good? Yes! Is it great? Yes! Is it funny? Yes! Is it violent? Terrifyingly so.

Django Unchained
Grade: A+

Django Unchained"Django Unchained" is a The Weinstein Co. release, directed by Quentin Tarantino and is rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity. The running time is .

The cast includes Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Gerald McRaney, Dennis Christopher, M.C. Gainey, Don Johnson, Tom Savini, Kerry Washington, Misty Upham, James Remar, Rex Linn, James Russo, Tom Wopat, Jonah Hill, Amber Tamblyn, Zoe Bell, Quentin Tarantino, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Michael Parks and Omar J. Dorsey.

Not since Michael Madsen sliced off a police officer's ear in Reservoir Dogs, and poured gasoline on the open wound, have I felt such an emotional response to violence in a Tarantino film. Torturing Nazis in Inglourious Bastereds is one thing, but watching two slaves battle to the death and the canine torture of another is tough to sit through. Tarantino's films are known for their gratuitous violence, and there is no lack of gratuitous violence in Django Unchained, but Tarantino also knows the line between gratuitous and unsettling and he walks it with unblinking confidence, making Django his most mature piece to date as well as one of the most rewarding.

Slavery is a stain on America's history and Tarantino does his best to show it for what it was while setting up his tale of romance and revenge. At the center of it all are two men. Beginning in 1858, we meet Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German-born bounty hunter posing as a dentist in a ridiculous horse-drawn carriage with a giant tooth swaying from its roof on a massive spring.

Schultz is hunting the Brittle brothers and in need of some assistance. In the wilds of Texas, he's managed to track down some slave traders in possession of one particular slave that will serve as his guide after a bit of a bloody parlay.

The slave's name is Django (Jamie Foxx) and his eyes glisten at the prospect of hunting down the three men that whipped his wife Hildi (Kerry Washington), from whom he was separated years ago by a former slave master (a briefly seen Bruce Dern). Schultz offers Django his freedom in exchange for his help and though he abhors slavery, Schultz admits he'll use "this slave malarkey" to his benefit for the time being, though he does say, "I feel guilty."

The promise of freedom and retrieving his wife from the clutches of the truly abhorrent slaveholder Calvin Candie (played with disgusting verve and menace by Leonardo DiCaprio) guides Django, who serves alongside Schultz throughout the winter before the German helps him find his wife.

Their journey begins in Greenville, Miss., the town where Django and Hildi were sold separately. From there it's hammers, hot boxes, guns, bullets, guns, violence and blood, blood and more blood. If there was ever a case to be made for the visceral impact of practical effects over CG blood splatter let Django Unchained rest the case.

Django is a revenge-cum-romance tale born of the Spaghetti Westerns Tarantino clearly knows so well and titled based on the 1966 Sergio Corbucci film starring Franco Nero who makes a brief appearance here in one of the film's several homages.

As much as Tarantino is paying homage to the Spaghetti Western and using his unique brand of storytelling to introduce a modern audience to the films he ate up when he was younger, Django does something none of his films have ever done; it takes a grim look at America's history and the picture it paints isn't pretty.

DiCaprio's Calvin Candie is a disgusting man, trading in slaves to fight for his amusement, carrying a hammer with him in case one should be determined the loser. At Candie's side is his house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) whose character approaches his own level of loathsome. Stephen's means of survival and appeasing his "master" means the punishment and castigation of the slaves and Mandingo fighters around him. For as much as Tarantino's villains have become characters we love to hate, the villains in Django you are meant to hate, and hate them you will as both DiCaprio and Jackson do their absolute best to ensure such a result.

Waltz, on the other hand, after creating a villain in Inglourious Basterds that was hard to hate, he brings a similarly soft, yet ruthless, persona to Schultz, only here his sentimentality is saved for the righteous and his scorn for the abominable. Waltz seems as if he was born to read Tarantino's lines and just as he so easily made his home in Tarantino's Inglourious narrative, he never misses a beat here.

Foxx is solid in his performance, serving as the hardened heart you root for throughout and the proud owner of the film's more gratuitous moments of violence that will cause you to cheer rather than cringe.

Other noteworthy performances are turned in by Don Johnson as Big Daddy, a wealthy plantation owner that eventually leads a comical raid on Schultz and Django; Tarantino himself can be found twice in the film, once he's easy to spot the other maybe not so much and Walton Goggins deserves a shout out as Billy Crash, a character you will love to hate and one that just can't quite understand the "D" in Django is silent.

As with all Tarantino films the soundtrack is notable, which includes two great new tracks by Rick Ross and John Legend, plus new music from Ennio Morricone. The cinematography from Robert Richardson is rich, gritty and slathered in blood and Sharen Davis' costumes are as fun as they are appropriate.

Overall, I'm an unashamed Tarantino fan. I love his ability to mix classic genres in cinema and revive them for a modern audience. His dialogue is endlessly entertaining and once again he taps into that special something that makes his films stand out from the rest. Django Unchained has everything you'd expect from a Tarantino film along with a mature recognition that some violence isn't meant to be entertaining, which is what makes the rest of it so much fun.


More Movie Reviews

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

'Mistress America' (2015) Movie ReviewB+

Mistress America (2015)

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (2015) Movie ReviewB

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

'Cop Car' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Cop Car (2015)

More Reviews
  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ugueth/ Ugueth


  • The Dude

    Boom. That's what I'm talking about!

  • Mark

    Saw it last night and absolutely agree on every point. A masterpiece.

  • Chris138

    Can't wait to see this.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mv11391/ Michael


  • http://cineenuruguay.blogspot.com/ Driver

    Fuck yes! A+
    Your most anticipated movie for this year lived up to the hype after all.

  • Ron Oneal Fresh

    Can't wait.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Cordia/ Cordia

    can't wait to see this, have to wait at least FOUR to Five weeks to see it..damn these international release dates

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Elijah/ Elijah

    Dang it Brad I'm trying to contain myself from thinking about this movie for two weeks and your "A+" review isn't helping. I'm just drooling for another Tarantino fix, can't wait!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Travis/ Travis

    That's three! Brad met his quota!

  • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

    Wow, really wasn't expecting this. Glad to see that it's great, maybe there is still some hope left in the end of this year.

  • http://hypable.com Jeremy Baril

    Having not seen Zero Dark 30, Django and Silver Linings are #1 and #2 of the year. Not sure in what order.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/SmartFilm/ SmartFilm

    That's really exciting. Going to have to break my promise to my girlfriend to see Les Mis on xmas...this is definitely a premiere day kinda movie.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

    Yup, this movie is going to be amazing. Now let's see if Zero Dark Thirty delivers and this might shape up to a pretty darn good year despite the first 75% practically being disappointing.

  • Raul

    glad that you lik it brad, so i guess it's the 19th movie you gave it A+, I can remember Silver linings playbook, The Dark Knight and Inception But I can't remember the others.

  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    Somewhere out there... AS is smiling.

    • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

      He's out there, watching, smiling knowingly, doing a mini arm-pump, whispering, "I knew you had it in you, champ..."

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/DaveS/ DaveS

    Hell yes! Can't wait to see this! (and Zero Dark Thirty)

  • John Doe Snow

    I didn't exactly read everything but Brad, you just made my day!! :))

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/G-Man/ G-Man

    AS probably has a big smile on his face for the A+.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HarryFuertes/ Harry Fuertes

      Double win for AS today! 5 Golden Globes and an A+ from Brad. Best day of his life
      probably wherever he is...

      • adu

        And he is gonna buy the script...now if only he could be more positive about the rest of life ;)

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

          Aww, way to throw me under the bus adu.

          • adu

            Just messing with ya buddy.

  • adu

    Brad, you gotta love when a plan comes together!

  • Corbin (formerly The New Guy)

    AS is sitting in the corner, smiling like no tomorrow. And Brad's most anticipated movie turns out to be an A+. All in all, Django is looking unchained of all doubts.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS


  • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

    Brad, would you say that you liked this more than Inglourious Basterds? That's my personal favorite by Tarantino.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I really think there is a big difference between the two. While Django delivers what we expect from Tarantino, there is a maturity to it in deliberately showing how ugly slavery was that I think makes it a "better" film... More enjoyable? Maybe not, but I tend to always enjoy watching Tarantino so that's a matter of degrees.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

        I thought the Shosanna section of Basterds was very mature. But if I had to say which of his films is the most mature (not having seen Django), I'd have to go with the final act of Kill Bill Vol. 2. I've never understood why QT has never received credit for the emotional maturity of that ending.

        • Susan

          AS - I personally find a lot of the ending weak. It's tones clash in a manner that Tarantino's films rarely do, between the kung-fu elements and the meandering monologues. Give me Jackie Brown any day.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            I strongly disagree. That final chapter between Bill & The Bride is some of the best stuff Tarantino has ever done.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

              Completely agree with AS here - Kill Bill Part 2 was by far, to me at least, Tarantino's most mature work followed by Inglorious. Tarantino himself said that Kill Bill is the only movie that he managed to get everything into because he had two parts to it whilst his other 'novels he turns into scripts' he has to dramatically cut meaning alot of the emotional parts are edited.

        • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

          Tarantino's most mature film I'd probably say is Jackie Brown, followed closely by Inglourious Basterds. Kill Bill never felt very mature to me, especially Vol. 2. While Vol. 1 was very over the top in its use of action and violence, Vol. 2 was the opposite with many long-winded dialogue scenes that were occasionally somewhat indulgent (how could anyone forget David Carradine talking about comic books?). I still like the Kill Bill's very much, but they are not perfect to me.

          Part of the reason that I love Inglourious Basterds so much is that it combines Tarantino's usual storytelling methods (excessive violence, frequent movie references, a tad bit of indulgence) with a truly unique story. The pace at which the film moves and the manner in which he tells is story really makes it is most mature film yet. I'm very interested to see how Django turns out.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            Oh man, how can you not love that Superman monologue? Caradine's delivery is masterful.

            I actually think, in some ways, Basterds is his most immature film. At least in terms of comedy. I mean, there is a reason I didn't give Basterds a perfect rating. The comedy is a big part of why it lost points with me. I think it was a big mistake for QT to create a cartoonish Hitler. Also, I cringed more than once during that veterinarian scene. Eli Roth's "fuck a duck" line was really bad. The finger in the bullet hole thing came off as kinda stupid, in large part due to Kruger's performance in that scene. And that insert of the sex scene with Juile Dreyfus was pretty tasteless. It felt like something out of an Adam Sandler movie.

            • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

              Okay, I'll agree with your criticism of Eli Roth's role in Basterds, but I loved the cartoonish Hitler and the other elements of comedy in the film. The only significant complaint I have with Inglourious Basterds is that with the exception of basterds like Aldo, Donny, Hugo, and a few others, we never really get to meet any of them and see them in action. I think Tarantino should've found a way to incorporate the rest of the basterds in the film (not that he needed to revolve his entire film around them; I wouldn't want the film to be two and a half hours of just watching the basterds scalp the Nazis). But, considering he named his film "Inglourious Basterds" and dedicated an entire chapter to their introduction, there really is very little of the basterds in the film. Still, a minor nitpick in an otherwise great film.

              Ironically, this main flaw that I have with the film is the reason that I didn't like it when I first saw it. After following the marketing of the film and watching trailers for months, I was so disappointed in that the film I ended up watching was entirely different from what the marketing led me to believe. Upon watching it a second time, I was able to separate my expectations from what the film actually was, and truly loved the film. I believe this film was the primary reason that I started to avoid following the marketing and publicity for films prior to their release.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

                I didn't have a problem with Roth, just that line.

                QT films have always been marketed as action-comedies. It's nonsense, but it works. People get tricked by thinking they're going to see an action film, but actually end up liking the movie anyway because it's so good.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

          I'm agreeing with AS 100% here. The ending of volume 2 is what brings the film together. Without that ending, Kill Bill is just a basic action-revenge film (albeit a stylistically brilliant one). But with that ending, everything snaps into place emotionally and you realize just how much you've begun to care for The Bride. The entire four hour experience becomes all the more meaningful.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

            I don't know, the first part is perfect and the second isn't as good in my opinion.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

            How great is that last scene between Bill & The Bride? Honestly, it was the perfect way to end a movie as epic as Kill Bill. No big shootout, no major fight scene. Just a quiet conversation between two warriors. Pure Tarantino. I still tear up when Navajo Joe comes on the soundtrack.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Fan/ Fan

    Fuck yeah! This is my number 1 most anticipated film of the year, cannot fucking wait!!! QT always deliver didn't doubt him for a bit. This is going to be off the chain...

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

    Brad, can I just say that I love you. Not only is DU the film of the year, it's also the review of the year.

    • http://www.criterion.com/my_criterion/27913-criterion10 Criterion10

      I obviously can't comment on the movie yet as I haven't seen it yet, but I will second what AS said in that this is in fact an excellent review. Kudos to you, Brad.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS
  • Mandarin

    I agree with AS, what a lovely, thoughtful review. (And if English was my first language I would have found better adjectives. But this is the gist of it:-)

  • Luire

    Tarantino's vision is getting consitently emotionally predictable.

    As for being unique - it's as unique as the film's title and there's the whole "City on Fire" thing.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      And your argument against him being unique is what? Original?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

    I haven't read the review..probably won't until i see it but all i can say is hell yeah! I love Tarantino and really cannot wait for this.

  • Susan

    I hate Death Proof...does that factor in at all to how I might feel for this

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Not at all. I would never compare the two.

      • Susan

        Ok. That alleviates some concern.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/HelloKitty/ Hello Kitty

    Brad, just curious. Now that Sally Menke is no longer around did you notice any difference in how this film is edited compared to all the rest?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/AS/ AS

      Yes, I was wondering this as well.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I considered addressing this in the review, but I felt it would get too long. In short, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because this is a different kind of film in that it is a Western and it has a deliberately slow pace and no, for those same reasons because I would like to think Menke would have many of the same choices. I really only think Tarantino could answer that with any more detail.

  • Rayzr

    Yes!!! Great review, Brad! Django and Zero Dark Thirty have both been on my "see as soon as possible" list for quite some time... but now they are cemented there!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/jaybob/ jaybob

    Why must he continue doing revenge stories? He's done nothing but that since Kill Bill.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      It's not a revenge story as much as it is a romance. I would say a little more, but I don't want to spoil it by giving the reason why.

  • Alex

    Do you think Samuel L. Jackson DESERVES an Oscar nomination for this? His character sounds very interesting and Jackson always works well with Tarantino

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RandallPMcMurphy/ Randall P McMurphy

    I can't wait to see this, it was one of my most anticipated films of the year since the year began (only below Looper and Cosmopolis).

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Aleonardis/ Aleonardis

    Why doesn't the Academy just nominate all three in supporting? I mean they all seem to be getting the SAME amount of buzz. I know a bunch of people are going to disagree with me but if Les Mis, Zero Dark, Amour, and this live up to my expectations, it's going to get EVEN harder to make a list of my ten favorites this year...

    • Chris138

      That would be pretty crazy if it happened. The only movies I can think of where it did would be On The Waterfront and The Godfather.

      • Alex

        and the Godfather part 2

    • Alex

      This is exceptionally rare. It would be the first time since The Godfather (I think). But if there's any film that deserves 3 best supporting actor nominations that's come out in the last 35 years, it's this film

      • Alex

        I just realized The Godather part 2 also got 3 nominations for best supporting actor

  • Calvin

    Brilliant. Looks like all the casting changes (i.e. Kurt Russell leaving) and script doctoring (cutting Scotty and Ace Woody out) worked to the best.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/navaneethks/ navaneethks

    I was not really interested in this movie before.... but i might give it a shot now.

    Is leonardo dicaprio in a good chunk of the film though? I mainly wanna see it for his role.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/mattm17/ mattm17

    What a great review! Tarantino always seems to deliver at a profound level in each and every one of his films, including Death Proof. I'm definitely placing this on my must-see list along with Zero Dark Thirty.

  • Unknown/Anonymous

    'Django Unchained', like 'Zero Dark Thirty', you had my curiosity... but now you have my full unbroken attention.

  • V

    Wow. It feels so great to see Tarantino still have this kind of effect on his audience. Cannot wait to see this.

  • http://www.rabidpictures.com Yaz

    Hm, saw it today and really surprised at the A+ rating. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but thought it's approach to the subject of slavery was too tongue-in-cheek... I was not expecting a comedy, which is what I thought the film was more than anything else... I guess I was expecting something else, so maybe that has something to do with my initial reactions.

    I still think the Kill Bill films were the peak of his directing abilities... There you had something consistent in tone that knew what it wanted to be... Since then I can never figure out what his films are supposed to be. Dramas? Comedies? Sketches? THe tone is all over the place.

    Don't get it twisted, I quite enjoyed Django. It's a beautiful looking film and Waltz, along with his lines, acting and everything else, is worth the price of admission alone... But to me, I was hoping for a bit more substance... This felt almost like parody at times.

  • mark

    i seen this movie on Christmas day and it was so packed
    other shows were Sold out we bought the last 3 tickets for our show
    it was a great movie i did not think it was going to be that great
    i thought it was going to be an ok movie but it was
    a great movie

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Franko-t/ Franko-t

    I went early Christmas Day and got a great seat, and I was not disappointed in any way. I was SO along for the ride 2:45 seemed a little short - I wanted more (tho what more I can't imagine). A Master storyteller.

  • Tommy

    Am I the only one who realized that James Remar got shot in the head at the beginning as Ace and then was Calvin Candie's bodyguard Butch? :O

  • http://topyxyz.wordpress.com Topy

    Wow. What a movie...was I wrong to enjoy the violence in the film? Because I never felt so satisfied when Django got his retribution.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/lalecture/ lalecture

    I finally saw this today. Classic Tarrentino, whose films I love for the most part. Loved it, but not the BEST picture of year when you put it next to its competitors.
    Btw, Waltz really deserves best sup. actor award. But I have a feeling they will give it to Jones.