‘Django’s’ remarkable characters hold viewers’ rapt attentionBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
After “Lincoln” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” the latest Oscars-cited movie to hit local screens is Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” It’s interesting to note that, quite inadvertently, the timing of the film’s local release has made it a sort of “companion piece” to “Lincoln.”
“Lincoln” dealt with the late US president’s high-minded and visionary efforts to legally eradicate the nefarious and inhumane practice of slavery, while Tarantino’s film shows how a black man exacts his own, much less legal version of justice to achieve the same objective!
Django (Jamie Foxx) links up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who’s tasked with capturing or killing escaped criminals. In time, he gets his new friend to help him free his wife, who’s now a slave in the vast plantation of an alternately gracious and sadistic man (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Tarantino’s decision to cast the screen icon in the sometimes exceedingly “dark” role is one of the artistic brainstorms that make his movie a must-see production. Corollarily, DiCaprio’s own decision to accept the unusual challenge is an artistic feather in his cap, and has underscored his emerging versatility and depth as a screen thespian.
Fact is, “Django Unchained” showcases many other remarkable characterizations, so it holds viewers’ attention from start to finish. Other memorable characters who figure prominently in the period drama’s plot and subplots include the plantation’s black overseer, who can be even more racist than his white master—an unexpected reminder of how deeply racism had permeated the very fabric of American life, thus requiring drastic measures on Lincoln and Django’s parts to excise it!
But, the most arresting figure in the story is Django himself. As Foxx depicts him, he starts out unsure of his strengths, but his determination to rescue his wife at all costs makes him a very fast learner.
At first, he and his white colleague and friend try to trick the enslaved woman’s owner, but when they’re found out, Django is forced to kill everybody who gets in his way!
What saves the film’s finale from ending up as just the latest shocking bloodbath in Tarantino’s violent ouevre is the intense love and cry for freedom that motivate Django, the avenger, to do his best—and worst!
Thus, at film’s end, after Django succeeds against all odds in his “impossible” mission, the audience is completely on his side, and celebrates his victory with him.
That’s all to the good because, despite the movie’s bloodbath, it does have a lot that’s meaningful and instructive to say about slavery. Lincoln may have gone about it in a much more “moral” way, but Django also scores vital points against the inhuman practice—with his blazing pistols!
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