For my money, Tarantino’s best film to date. A mature and intelligent treatment of the themes of slavery, race and simply the dehumanising selfishness of people. There’s a good dose of humour in there too – not easily done with such themes, but the film is as skillful as it is brave.
So, it’s about a black slave who becomes a bounty hunter. First his flesh was traded, and then he trades the flesh of others. As a bounty hunter, he is often ‘in disguise’, so playing a role like an actor, adding a layer of theatricality to proceedings, but also introducing ambiguity around what constitutes ‘collaboration’. It’s actually the scary ‘Uncle Tom’ character played by Samuel L Jackson who best brings all these themes together, not the eponymous hero Django (Jamie Foxx). Foxx puts in a great performance, though, as do Leonardo Dicaprio, Don Johnson and Christoph Waltz (the latter, who played the Nazi interrogator in Inglourious Basterds, steals the show as a ‘nice’ German in this film).
Why’s this film better than Tarantino’s others? It’s not self-indulgent. It’s never flippant or frivolous. His usual brillance with intricately crafted opening scenes is actually applied to an entire film here. This is not the film of a talented ‘enfant terrible’. This is the film of a master at work.
So is the film brilliant in all respects? Yes. (Alright, some might say Tarantino really shouldn’t have done a cameo in his own film, but at least he has the decency to bring that character to a swift and unpleasant end.) I’ve never scored a film 10/10 before, but in this case it is warranted. In a class of its own.