Django Unchained–Home Video Review

After The Avengers, Django Unchained was my favorite film of 2012.  A big-budget Western, set in the pre-Civil War South, about a freed slave shooting white criminals dead as a bounty hunter, directed by the genius who brought us Pulp Fiction? Come on, who WOULDN’T be up for that?

I saw this movie the day after Christmas; it was the first Quentin Tarantino movie I’d ever seen in theatres and I was simply blown away. I actually really like Westerns, and Tarantino’s postmodern sensibilities and dynamic scriptwriting reinforced what I like about the genre: yes, every Western is written according to a formula, but it’s a formula that works, and Tarantino puts in enough twists and turns to make it his own.

So when preorders for the 2-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack went up on Amazon, how could I resist?

It arrived last week, I watched it with some people on Saturday and it was great. For one thing, watching it with other people reinforced for me that Tarantino draws you into his movies not just with the random outbursts of violence, but also his dialogue, characters and plotting.

And what a plot we have here: In 1858 in Texas, two slavers and their convoy of five slaves are stopped by the colorful Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Woltz, in an amazing performance that won him a second Best Supporting Actor Oscar) who asks which of the slaves can help him identify three wanted criminals/former plantation hands he is chasing. When Django (Jamie Foxx) says he can identify them, Schultz “buys” him–by shooting one of the slavers and the horse of one of the others; it’s OK, they’re both criminals–and they locate the other criminals. Upon learning that Django wants to free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who was taken from him when they were sold separately, Schultz resolves to help him and trains him in the ways of bounty hunting. Come spring, they head for the debauched plantation of Candyland and its owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio, who is the creepiest he’ll probably ever be) and Samuel L. Jackson (who is a revelation) as the head house slave Steven.

The Blu-Ray, in all its 1080p glory, is gorgeous and looks remarkable on a HDTV. The bigger the screen, the better it looks; Tarantino is a guy who makes movies for the movie screen and this is evidence. I haven’t watched the special features yet, but I cannot wait to.

Interestingly, 2012 was also the 20th anniversary of Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs, and the 15th of what many consider his breakthrough, Pulp Fiction. Because of that, and because of this movie, all of Tarantino’s movies were transferred onto Blu-Ray with his supervision and blessing. I got Pulp Fiction for $4 on Blu-Ray that way and I can’t wait to see what else I can pick up.

But Django, as I said, is a brilliant movie. You don’t have to like or even have seen a Western in order to get what Tarantino is doing here. The bottom line is, one of America’s greatest filmmakers has made what might be his best movie yet. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

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