Delving into the murky and horrid history of America’s slave trade, the story starts with Django (Foxx), freed from slavery by bounty-hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), in exchange for his assistance in finding three men wanted for murder. It turns out Django has a natural knack for horse-riding and gun-slinging, and it’s not long before the two men partner up to take down even more criminals. Eventually, Django tells Shultz about his wife Broomhilda Von Shaft (Washington), who is currently owned by cotton plantation king Calvin Candie (Di Caprio). So the two devise a plan to meet Candie, get invited to his plantation, save Broomhilda, and ride off into the sunset together. But this being a Tarantino movie, things do not go according to plan.
Gloriously violent, impeccably scripted, darkly hilarious and a sensational soundtrack; these are compliments given to every Tarantino movie, and the same compliments apply here. Likewise with the acting talent - Foxx is a good (but not great) lead for the audience to get behind, Di Caprio revels in his first proper villain role, and Samuel L Jackson is fantastic as Candie’s top slave, and old man with some kind of Stockholm Syndrome, putting Candie’s wants above the well-being of his fellow slaves. But the movie’s best character and best acting comes from Waltz as Dr. Schultz. Just as Inglourious Basterds had you believe he could never play anything other than a bad guy for the rest of his career, Django Unchained will have you wanting Waltz to play the hero in every other movie ever made. His majestic mix of intelligence, humour and necessary violence should put another Oscar on his mantle.
There are some issues with the movie overall - it’s about twenty minutes too long, there are one or two run-ins with slave-owners that seem to do nothing other than remind us that slavery is bad, there’s a distractingly pointless Jonah Hill cameo, and Washington’s Broomhilda is too blank to serve as the crux for the movie. But the biggest problem is that this is Tarantino’s most straight-forward movie to date, and if you take away the verbose dialogue, it could’ve been directed by anyone. That’s not a deal-breaker by any means, as even bad Tarantino is a must-watch, but Django Unchained finds the director at his most fun and least interesting to date.