Reviewed by Sam Robinson
Rated MA15+. Starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio. Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
It’s 1858 in the Deep South of America, two years before the start of the Civil War. Django Unchained opens to a group of black slaves walking in a line, chained together by the ankles, being led by their ruthless owner. Thus sets the pace for this film, a spaghetti western exploring the atrocious slave trade history of America.
Django (Foxx) is freed by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and the two pair up as bounty hunters, and begin a quest to find and free Django’s wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who had been sold as a slave to the scarily eccentric Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). That’s the plot in a nutshell, but there’s plenty of both funny and horrifying interactions as they travel around the racist Old West.
There’s stacks to enjoy in this film, from the often startling soundtrack (90s hip hop in a western, anyone?) to the stark hues and set design. But the thing that I struggled with is that the comedy in the film is often really dark – which is so often a staple of Tarantino’s films. You get this extended scene with a racist mob on horseback arguing whether they can see through the holes in the bags covering their faces. People around me in the cinema were laughing out loud as blood comically (and ridiculously) flew around scenes as people were shot. It was a shame to see death so lightly dealt with. I was also baffled by a ridiculous scene right toward the end of the film where director Tarantino cameos as an Australian. Yep.
Slavery is a big theme in Django and it’s something that the Bible talks about with all people – that we were slaves to sin but are now slaves to righteousness because of Jesus purchasing and freeing us. Romans 6:16-17, 22-23 –
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness… But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We’ve been bought at a price by Jesus in his death and resurrection and we now belong to him. Django may be able to ride off into the sunset but he’s still in the south where slavery is prevalent; and it’s only Django and his lady who are unchained. But they, like us, are still slaves to sin – and it’s something we can’t unchain ourselves from. However, through trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are unchained from the power of sin and chained to Him in his death and resurrection, guaranteeing our eternal life.
Please be warned that calling this film extremely violent is an understatement, and there’s also a stack of coarse language. But it’s an interesting piece of filmmaking that (rightfully) opens our eyes to a sad history, one that still has ramifications today. I’m giving Django Unchained three out of five stars.
Django Unchained is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming on Quickflix.