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Jamie Foxx
Kerry Washington
Leonardo DiCaprio
Walton Goggins
Christoph Waltz
Samuel L. Jackson
Don Johnson.
Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino.
Running Time
165 minutes

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Django Unchained
Once upon a time in the South

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In 1858, bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Waltz) frees a slave named Django (Foxx) to help him track down three outlaw brothers. The pair partner up, then conspire to rescue Django’s wife (Washington) from a plantation owner (DiCaprio).

Django Unchained
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Any new Quentin Tarantino release is an event. Like his latest protagonist, Tarantino is a filmmaker Unchained (although, to be fair, he was never really Chained to begin with). He has never exhibited any agenda beyond revelling in a seemingly boundless love of cult cinema and sharing that with an audience whom he never patronises by assuming they know less than he does. So, for good (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) or ill (Four Rooms, Death Proof), his movies, however wide their scope, always come unhampered by studio fussiness and unvarnished by new trends: digital, CGI, 3D — IMAX, even. For a man credited with tearing up the rulebook, he is staunchly traditional.

And to see him tackle that most traditional of American cinematic genres, the Western, makes Django Unchained a double-event. The importance of the Western, so rich with mythic power, to America’s very sense of itself is not to be underestimated. Inglourious Basterds was a riot, outrageously rewriting the history of the Second World War to the tune of its own filmic re-presentation during Tarantino’s formative years. But Django Unchained digs deeper, into even more thematically fecund soil.

Just as it was a thrill for late ’60s counterculture kids to see it ploughed into Spaghetti by European maestro Sergio Leone and those who followed (not least that other Sergio, Corbucci, director of the original Django), there has been understandable anticipation for QT’s own spin.

Yet, strictly speaking, Django Unchained isn’t a Western. Tarantino himself has said, if anything, it should be tagged a ‘Southern’. Its events predate the Civil War by a few years, whereas most Westerns squat between that devastating conflict’s conclusion and the dawn of the 20th century. (When, not coincidentally, cinema itself was born.) They also occur far from the rugged frontier of American myth, with half the movie pinned to a single Mississippi plantation — a locale of faux-aristocratic if sinister elegance, rather than the slop and dust of the prairie cattle-trail or timber-clad frontier camps. Tin star-sporting sheriffs do feature, but are given almost comedically short shrift. Native Americans and border- bothering banditos are notably absent.

So, ‘Southern’ it is. Or rather, ‘Spaghetti Southern’. For, while Tarantino has skirted the Western’s customary historic home, he has still embraced the style of the two Sergios and their contemporary emulators, from the operatic grandeur of the score (Ennio Morricone composed a piece for Django Unchained) to the oozy, lurid scarlet fountains that cascade gorily with every gunfight.

It is also, interestingly, very much a fairy tale; more so, in fact, than myth. For the first time, Tarantino plays it linear (although there are degraded-stock flashbacks) and portrays a single character’s journey. There are no shifts in perspective, no chopping up of the chronology, no chapter separations. It is, essentially, a straightforward ‘rescue the princess’ quest, heightened by being located amid the Old World-pining feudal system of the Southern aristocracy.

The script even spells it out. Having relieved laconic slave Django (Jamie Foxx) of his irons, German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (a hirsute, dapper Christoph Waltz) is astonished to learn that, not only is his new partner married, but also his wife (Kerry Washington) is named Broomhilda von Shaft. Over a campfire, he tells Django of her namesake, Broomhilda of German legend: how she is abducted by a dragon and taken to the top of a mountain where she is surrounded by hellfire. It is then up to hero Siegfried, explains King, to make the perilous journey to rescue her. And Django, he says, is “a real, live Siegfried”. Thus Django has his own hellfire to contend with, and there is a dragon to battle.

Speaking of which, one of Django Unchained’s most exquisite pleasures is Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie, the owner of grand plantation Candie Land. Although he does not breathe fire so much as hot air. When considering DiCaprio for the role, Tarantino reimagined Candie as a “petulant boy emperor”. It is a role the actor plays to hateful perfection: a spiteful, brown-toothed bully, avaricious, vain and prone to flattery, whose sometimes unctuous civility is merely froth bobbing atop dark, poisonous waters. There is always the sharp threat of violence when he is on screen, something Tarantino hones during a dinner-table sequence which comes close to matching the German-bar scene in Inglourious Basterds.

DiCaprio forms a superbly nefarious double act with Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, the head house-slave: white-haired and rickety, eye-bulgingly apoplectic at the sight of Django on horseback, disgusted at the idea of a “nigger” being allowed to stay “in the big house”. And Waltz is also excellent, as accomplished playing a hero for Tarantino as he was as the villainous Hans Landa in Basterds — despite residing at the opposite end of the moral spectrum, Dr. King is just as brilliantly verbose.

Sadly, the weak link (ironically) is Jamie Foxx. The man has physical presence, that is undeniable, and as Django he certainly looks the part. Yet he never feels entirely right as the gritty, gunslinging hero — or rather, sounds right. Foxx is gifted with a lilty, soft, musical voice, but it jars against Django’s terse deliveries. “I like the way you die, boy,” should be a grit-spat humdinger of a zinger. But with Foxx it falls like a feather.

There are other problems, too. Tarantino’s penchant for black comedy and hyperreal, sometimes cartoonish violence runs up against his bold decision to depict the horrors of slavery head on: the lashings, the terror of the “hot box” and, in one bone-chillingly nasty scene, the pugilistic atrocity of a Mandingo fight. This, of course, is all part of Django’s story, and utterly relevant. But it doesn’t sit comfortably next to those more ‘Tarantino’ elements or his brand of Spaghettification.

Django Unchained is also, frankly, just too damn long. Or rather, its story is just too damn short for the running time (which pushes three hours). There is nothing inherently bad about long running times, and one of Tarantino’s strengths is the way he’s unafraid to let a scene run and run, his reams of dialogue unfurling in luxuriously unhurried fashion. But that tendency is here at its least tempered. Django could easily have moved faster without at all harming the quality. It could have taken even more of a lead from its Italian-Western inspirations and more often cut to the chase, and the action. To quote Tuco in Leone’s The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

Another strong, sparky and bloody entry in the QT canon. Although, creaking under its running time, it’s not quite as uproariously entertaining as his last pseudo-historical adventure, Inglourious Basterds.

Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Django Unchained
Empire Star Rating

The D is silent!!!!

Tarantino's best film since Pulp Fiction!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 19:30, 27 February 2014 | Report This Post

"Gentlemen, you had my curiousity, but now have my attention."

At its most basic roots, Django Unchained is essentially a fairy tale, albeit one long, violent and soaked in blood. So, while this isn't Tarantino's best, it is nevertheless a welcome new addition to his oeuvre. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 03:27, 18 November 2013 | Report This Post


But don't you think it probably happened in those days as-well? I think Quentin Tarantino PG'ed that era with Django Unchained. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Keegan Gess at 21:48, 13 July 2013 | Report This Post


Sure enough, the movie has it's flaws but with the awesome OTT violence and Christoph Waltz acting you can't get much better. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Keegan Gess at 21:47, 07 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Django Unchained

I thought this flick was one of Tarantino''s best yet. It didn't have the impact that "Bastards" left me with, but it definitely had it's own sense of style. Dicaprio stole the show, as did Foxx. If I had to point one thing I'd change would be the production value - It seemed at times like I was watching the Wild Wild West. Maybe I now fully understand why Quentin is planning on leaving the director's chair soon 8.5/10 W.Frey ... More

Posted by Will Frey at 20:03, 05 July 2013 | Report This Post

Django Unchained review

Empire ask that people not post to advertise their own site. You can include a personal link in sigs - and if you're a regular poster, it will be noticed. But you aren't allowed to post just to lead users to your own site. ... More

Posted by onefilm at 15:28, 07 June 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Django Unchained (2013)

Only just got round to seeing this, not much I can say that hasn't already been said a dozen times in this thread. It's a thoroughly enjoyable romp and Waltz utterly steals the show (again), but as others have said it's a good 30 minutes too long, the ending really should have been after the big shoot-out, why Tarantino couldn't have just re-written that so Foxx delivered the final ass-whopping there instead of dragging it out for another half hour with that mining company tomfoolery is beyond ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 15:56, 03 June 2013 | Report This Post

Django Unchained (2013)

With any Quentin Tarantino film the expectation is always going to be at its highest. So what starts off as a new good looking film from QT turns into more of an event. Django really did live up to my expectations and I hope any other QT fan out there thought the same. When he first announced the release of Django Unchained, I thought okay another meaningless title, what is it going to bring and is it going to be as good as his previous films, is this is where it goes down hill for Quentin. Rea... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by theMANOFBLU at 19:05, 30 May 2013 | Report This Post

Django Unchained (2013)

With any Quentin Tarantino film the expectation is always going to be at its highest. So what starts off as a new good looking film from QT turns into more of an event. Django really did live up to my expectations and I hope any other QT fan out there thought the same. When he first announced the release of Django Unchained, I thought okay another meaningless title, what is it going to bring and is it going to be as good as his previous films, is this is where it goes down hill for Quentin. Real... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by theMANOFBLU at 18:49, 30 May 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Django Unchained

Definitely one of my favourites of Tarantino's films. Great dialogue and action sequences, where there are scenes of carnage that suddenly happen after normal conversations like in most of Tarantino's films. Great revenge flick and I could not recommend it enough. I might even consider buying it when it's released on DVD. ... More

Posted by adamthehorrorfan at 09:29, 21 April 2013 | Report This Post

Django Unchained

Classic ( the best film of the year ) ... More

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Posted by ruddick at 15:55, 17 April 2013 | Report This Post

EMPIRE, please read this!

I can say without exageration that Tarantino does not disappoint. His classic bloodbaths, intriguing dialogue and black humor finally had a tribute that is "Django Unchained." Many people did not like the movie or for being too silly, or too long, or excessive violence. Will a Tarantino fan crazy as me, to realize the enormity of the great masterpiece that "Django" can be? Not only is one of the best of Tarantino movies, but it is the tribute that the writer-director make to his films, gi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ralph25 at 18:53, 13 April 2013 | Report This Post

RE: It was great until...

It dragged towards the end; those last twenty minutes especially - If Tarantino still had Menke she would have sorted that out. Nonetheless - an enjoyable Tarantino film, closest he's come to matching Pulp Fiction in my opinion. ... More

Posted by Fospherous at 23:58, 18 March 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Django Unchained

of stylistic cinematography, engaging (and funny from some) performances and an intriguing plot, Django Unchained is a must-see cinema experience- Especially for fans of Tarantino’s films. ]: With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. For U.K audiences, this is a 2013 release (lucky buggers the rest of you). Since I started hearing about this at the very beginning of 2012, I was interested to see T... More

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Posted by FilmMaster at 16:52, 18 March 2013 | Report This Post


The scene where that slave was ripped apart by dogs was a bit much though would you not agree? ... More

Posted by intermission at 12:20, 06 March 2013 | Report This Post


Tarantino continues to rewrite history and the history books with this entertaining melange which you could only describe as a spag & slavery western . Great performances all around from the four big hitters - Waltz, Fox, Di Capprio and Jackson all backed up by some gruesomely staged violence and an excellent soundtrack. I'd stick this film just behind Pulp Fiction and Dogs, but it's still one of his best. FOUR STARS ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 08:10, 01 March 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Django Unchained

Well that made an interesting double-bill with Retro as always and ever the cinematic magpie, QT is at it again. From the old Columbia logo at the start to virtually every western trope you can think of - from Sergios Leone and Corbucci to Peckinpah, Roy Rogers tog SaddlesUnchainedo rcherserse while a rsmontage includes a wintery sojourn in the snow which homages the frozen landscapes of Corbucci’s other classic spaghetti western, at Silencel as Altman’s and Mrs Millerthere’s the nchslo-mo and ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 11:54, 28 February 2013 | Report This Post

Almost perfect ained/ ... More

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Posted by jakesfake at 09:10, 28 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: It was great until...

L: chris wootton Tarantino showed up.. absolutely killed it in it's tracks for me. I liked Jamie Foxx and thought that Jackson was actually the weak link 00% agree. I thought Jamie Foxx was outstanding all the way through, as were Don Johnson, Leo DiCaprio and Waltz. Samuel L Jackson in my opinion was fucking awful. Just a complete piss-take, I'd go so far as he wiped 1 start off the rating for me (from 5 to 4) certainly if you throw his performance in with Tarantinos (Was he supps... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonson at 08:02, 28 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Djumb as dogshite

is silent, Nigerian.”f you haven’t managed to pick up what Quentin Tarantino has been putting down for the past couple of decades, then you never will. The sad fact is that you probably aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Chances are you’re the sort of turkey that enjoys endless marathons of the television series Friends, the androgynous musical stylings of Justin Beiber, and taking those queer duck-lipped self shots for your collection of pretend friends on BookFace. When it comes to Tara... More

Posted by at 02:18, 22 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Djumb as dogshite

Is not as bad as you say. But there are many weaknesses in this movie. Surelly it's not bad Tarantino movie, nothing more. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by twisted_state at 10:38, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: heavenly

L: kjhelston this has been made by a god, it will make you cream im your wanksplat somewhere else. ... More

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Posted by Normal Control at 01:34, 17 February 2013 | Report This Post

Djumb as dogshite

The J is silent. Fuck this movie. Too tired to write more now, might give this a proper kicking later on. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Normal Control at 01:29, 17 February 2013 | Report This Post


this has been made by a god, it will make you cream ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kjhelston at 14:25, 11 February 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Django Unchained

Review: Let me start with the negatives. The film is about 30 minutes too long, has some fairly nonsensical pacing issues and an A.D.D. tone as it bounces from serious to light-hearted to surreal and back again almost at random. That said, as a spectacle of sheer Tarantino insanity, it's difficult to find fault in it. The humour, the razor-sharp dialogue and the absurdly OTT visceral violence all make watching this movie one hell of an experience. Christopher Waltz is absolutely stun... More

Posted by CeejSays at 22:20, 07 February 2013 | Report This Post

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