Yes, that really IS Samuel L. Jackson.
I’m not qualified to comment on the historical authenticity of Quentin Tarantino’s fully committed depiction of black American slavery in 1858 but I’m as qualified as anyone else to share with you why I, personally, think this is another significant contribution to one of the greatest movie directing careers of all time.
With Django (the D’s silent you know) Tarantino cements his position in the top 10.
This is epic, just as Kill Bill (1 and 2) was, and proves that long movies don’t have to be padded out indulgences. It grows in its impact with every scene and ends up a classic.
Spike Lee has problems with the depiction of slavery and I have to respect that as I, like Tarantino, am Caucasian. At times it does seem to mock the plight of America’s black slaves but I feel sure that Samuel L Jackson (virtually unrecognisable) and Jamie Foxx saw more than a wage in choosing to star in it and I’m sure too that the judges of the Black Reel Awards which have given it six nominations are qualified to judge it on its merits as opposed to its politics.
Although described as a (spaghetti) western this is really a movie about slavery and not since ‘Roots’ has African American slavery been so prominently featured on screen. Tarantino does not shy away from the subject matter or the vernacular of the time. “Nigger” is used over 100 times in the script and not just by the slaves. I had to refer to my copy of Filthy English: The How, Where, When and What of Everyday Swearing by Pete Silverton to establish whether or not MotherF@£$%er was currency in 1858 but there is evidence that points to its validity. Just as well, because Samuel L J can’t really get through a movie without saying it repeatedly and he does so again, liberally.
There’s an early scene in which predecessors of the Ku Klux Klan hunt down Jamie Foxx, the freed slave and “black man on a horse!” who is bounty hunting with ex Dentist, Dr King Schultz (played entirely idiosyncratically by Christoph Waltz), their depiction is so funny that one has to question whether or not it’s really acceptable to laugh so uproariously at a subject matter so taboo; but that’s Tarantino’s gift. It’s also his gift to spoof genres, mock convention (and history) mount lavish killing sprees and generally have a grand old time no matter the subject matter and that’s why we love him so.
Django is great fun, some say it’s too long but for me the movie simply got itself into a place (a little slowly I’d say) that fans of Tarantino would want to stay for hours.
Leonardo Di Caprio has not been this good since The Departed, (strangely not an Oscar nomination) and Jamie Foxx acquits himself well in a low-key, black Eastwood type performabnce. But it’s Waltz that dominates in the acting stakes and his Oscar nod is fair reward. There’s only one Chrisoph Waltz that’s for sure (and there’s plenty of it if you care to look – 101 acting roles to date to be precise.)
So, a little flawed (the start fails to quickly engage in gear) but unique and brilliant. Go see it and forget the politics. It’s a movie.