Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio Square Off in "Django Unchained"

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company
January 10th, 2013

Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio Square Off in "Django Unchained"

-- When writer and director Quentin Tarantino announced his latest project, it was met with much curiosity and excitement by his fans. He announced he was going to put his own twist on an obscure spaghetti western called "Django." The film would be set just a few years before the Civil War and focus on slavery in the South, with a cast including Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and Oscar-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio as well as Tarantino mainstays Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.

At the center of the film is the character Django, played soulfully by Jamie Foxx, and his relationships with the man who freed him from slavery, Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), and his adversary, Calvin Candie (DiCaprio). The differing ways in which Django deals with each of these two men is part of what endears him to the audience. Django may have been a slave all his life, but he didn't let his situation take away his spirit or humanity. He is also nobody's fool, knowing when he should trust a man and when he should be wary.

The film first explores the relationship between Django and Dr. Schultz, a former dentist who still rides around in a horse and carriage emblazoned with a hilarious giant tooth. Dr. Schultz is of German descent and does not believe in slavery, so he easily strikes up a friendship with Django, who is rightfully suspicious of the good doctor at first. Schultz is now a bounty hunter, which pays a whole lot better, especially because people actually fear him less as a bounty hunter. He offers Django his freedom and a piece of his bounty in exchange for help in finding three brothers he was contracted to kill. Once that job is completed, the two men could have parted ways, but Django accepts Schultz's offer to accompany him to find Candie's plantation, where Django's wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) resides.

At the plantation, called Candyland, Django meets his ultimate enemy, though he never betrays just how much he hates Candie. He keeps his cool and is very patient throughout the very tense time he spends there, even when he is forced to watch atrocities such as slaves being forced to fight to the death or a vicious dog attacking a slave, all for the amusement of the sociopathic Candie. The eyes of the two meet quite often during their shared scenes, with Django wisely hiding his emotions like a seasoned poker player. Candie appears frustrated that he can't get a rise out of the calm Django but is nonetheless intrigued. He even allows the former slave to stay in the main house and eat in the dining room, acts that were unheard of in the days before the Civil War.

It could be argued that Candie actually brings out the best in Django, even though they don't like each other. No matter how cruel the slave owner becomes, even showing off Broomhilda's scars during dinner one night, Django keeps his cool. He is repeatedly tested by Candie' disgusting behavior yet won't betray the real reason he is at the plantation, which is to rescue his beloved Broomhilda, who passes out when she firsts sees him after so many years apart.

One of the best parts of the movie is a dinner scene two hours into the nearly three-hour film. In this scene, Dr. Schultz is about to strike a deal with Candie to buy one of the slave girls, which he will demand to be Broomhilda, allowing her to escape with Django unharmed. This scheme is jeopardized when a house slave, Stephen (an almost unrecognizable Samuel L. Jackson), becomes privy to this plan and informs Candie. While the audience knows that Candie is aware of Django and Dr. Schultz's ruse, the two heroes are not. This creates a scene that is fraught with tension that could explode at any minute, leaving viewers on the edges of their seats.

Carnage ensues, as Django and Candie share their final, bloody scene together. It doesn't mark the end of the movie, but it does mark the end of Django as he once was, because his focus now turns to revenge. Though the relationship between Django and Schultz is far more touching, the one he shares with Candie ultimately changes him forever, especially once he begins to plot his revenge. All of this builds up to a grand conclusion that is among the funniest and most satisfying endings in recent film memory.