Django Unchained Blu-ray Review
Eightteen-fifty-eight, two years before the Civil War. Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter and—why not?—dentist has tracked down a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) in the middle of the Texas woods. After a brief exchange of words, Shultz sends a bullet into the slave driver’s skull and lets Django—along with a dozen others—free. In exchange for Django’s help locating the brutal Brittle Brothers, who each have prices on their heads, Shultz will give him his permanent freedom.
That task will come to a simple enough end and journey will eventually lead to Candyland, a Mississippi plantation where Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) is serving for the sadistic, goateed Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Schultz and Django have to put on such an unstable charade, one that could crumble with one false move, that the viewer is on edge for the entire 70+-minute sequence.
DJANGO UNCHAINED is Quentin Tarantino’s latest epic, a tale of relentless revenge that holds no punches and offers no bandages—something that critics of course would pout about upon release. It’s the second of his alternate history films, following 2009’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, which offed Hitler in the third act. While QT doesn’t bother to lynch Robert E. Lee, he does give the slave the shot at vengeance he would have been strung up for even daydreaming about.
With DJANGO UNCHAINED, Tarantino won his second Best Original Screenplay Oscar. It lacks the pop culture know-how of his previous statue winner, PULP FICTION, but it has some of the sharpest and most clever scenes he’s penned to date. (The KKK scene is one of the funniest QT’s written; Candie’s mouthwatering over a “Mandingo fight” and his skull speech prove him one of the most frightening villains of the year.) The cast, too, does such a phenomenal job, both with the dialogue and their characters: Foxx shows he was the best man for the part, having taken the role after Will Smith (apparently fearing he’d never win a Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Award playing a vengeful slave) turned it down; DiCaprio illustrates he can play a heel just as well as anyone of his generation; Samuel L. Jackson, as Candie’s right-hand-slave Stephen, maintains his cool as a QT veteran; and it’s no wonder that Waltz, with his calm command, won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar, despite playing a character relatively similar to Hans Landa.
Still, DJANGO UNCHAINED isn’t without its faults. It runs too long. The film runs 166 minutes only because Tarantino didn’t wrap up the story when he should have—a half hour earlier. The fat only adds more dynamite and a chance for Tarantino himself to prove he’s somehow gotten worse at acting since his role as Jimmy in PULP FICTION.
It’s stocked with other familiar faces, as well, with visits from Don Johnson, Franco Nero, Bruce Dern, Russ Tamblyn, Jonah Hill, Zoë Bell, Robert Carradine, Michael Parks, and Tom Savini. That’s genuine Tarantino. So, too, is Django’s name, lifted from Sergio Corbucci’s iconic spaghetti western, which starred Nero. So, too, is the soundtrack, with tracks from Jim Croce and Rick Ross. (If “Cat People” can play over 1940s Germany, then why not “I Got a Name” over the pre-Civil War South?).
DJANGO UNCHAINED does what a great film from a revolutionary director should: entertain us, make us think in a new way and get us ready for whatever’s next.
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray offers a flawless high-definition presentation of DJANGO UNCHAINED. The greens, blues and browns of the exteriors and interiors are captured wonderfully, as are the costumes (notably Django’s bounty hunter uniforms and Calvin Candie’s suits) and production design (Candyland is thoroughly detailed).
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1; French Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. The audio transfer is also given complete attention, as every sound effect (from the gunshots to dynamite explosions) and soundtrack cue (from Jim Croce’s voice to Ennio Morricone’s scores) comes through speakers with tremendous power.
Remembering J. Michael Riva: The Production Design of DJANGO UNCHAINED (12:50) pays tribute to the work of Riva, who died of a stroke during production of DJANGO UNCHAINED. (Side gripe: Why is there no piece devoted to Sally Menke?)
Reimagining the Spaghetti Western: The Horses & Stunts of DJANGO UNCHAINED (13:46): In this featurette, Tarantino, stunt coordinator Jeff Dashnaw and more discuss the importance of the stunts and horses, with emphasis on the safety provided on the animals.
The Costume Designs of Sharen Davis (12:03) looks at the many outfits, including Django’s too-cool blue velvet suit.
Promos for the TARANTINO XX Blu-ray Collection and the DJANGO UNCHAINED soundtrack.
Also included are a DVD/Digital Copy and UltraViolet.