Movie review: Django Unchained (2012)

I’m not a big Quentin Taratino fan. His films are too violent for my taste. So it was with trepidation that I decided to watch Django Unchained. I was pleasantly surprised. Not because of a lack of violence. But because I enjoyed the movie. Although long—nearly three hours, it went fast.

The movie was hard to watch in parts, a commentary on how blacks were treated during slavery. It was horrible to see the cruel, intentional physical pain and mutilation doled out.

However, it was the perfect setting for the typical Western where good and evil are very black and white. A German plays our first hero, who is repulsed by the institution of slavery and the treatment of blacks. I silently cheer him as he helps one slave to freedom, though to my chagrin, the deal he strikes with Django leaves him with only one-third of the profits from a partnership between the German and the slave he freed.

Irked by slavery as well as the ignorance and arrogance of the Southern good ol’ boys, Dr. Schultz departs two-thirds of the way through the film, leaving us with Django as the sole hero. There is something exceedingly satisfying watching a black man hoodwink and kill lots of white Southerners who actively (or passively) contribute to the torture and slavery of other human beings.

Trading in flesh in the form of slavery is juxtapositioned against trading in flesh in the form of bounty hunting, which is the occupation of Dr. Schultz, the German, and Django, whom he takes on as sort of an apprentice. One form of trading is bad. One is good. Hunting down humans simply because they have been enslaved is bad. Hunting down humans because they have committed crimes against others is good. It gets murky when you think how enslaving others and all the torture that goes along with it are crimes against others. By this logic, it is good to hunt down the slavers as one would stagecoach robbers.

There was one scene of humor, where a band of raiders go out under cover of night to attack Dr. Schultz and Django. We see their roundup before the attack where they start to complain about the white hoods that one raider’s wife had made. No one could see with the hoods on. They attempted to enlarge the eye holes, only to ruin the masks. The raider whose wife made the hoods ended up leaving the group in a huff before the raid, mumbling how his wife’s efforts weren’t appreciated. And then we see the group trying to attack but unable to successfully carry out the attack because they simply couldn’t see with the masks on. Nice to see the bumbling incompetence of the KKK. Nice to poke fun at such a horrible tradition of intimidation and murder.

If you like Westerns, you’ll like this movie. If you like to see blood from gunfighting, you’ll like this movie. If you like tales where good triumphs over bad, you’ll like this movie. If you like heroes that you can get fully behind, you’ll like this movie. If you abhor the institution of slavery and all that it entailed, you’ll like this movie.

The only things I didn’t like about this movie: being reminded of the dark history of slavery in our country’s past. And seeing the ignorance of people who perpetuated the system of slavery…ignorance of this type that sadly still exists today.


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