My first impression of Django Unchained after I saw the trailer for the film was that it looked silly. The idea of slavery and westerns did not gel with me. When I started to learn more about the actual plot, I became curious. When I heard the mixed reviews about the film, I pretty much came down on the side of my initial impression. One reviewer called the use of the N-word gratuitous. I was fine with the contextual use of the word. However I was not interested in being disrespected because the "license" to use the word contextually was abused. Jamie Foxx as well as others said that the film was cathartic. I simply could not conceptualize how any slavery film would be cathartic. Ultimately, I resigned my position to I will see the film eventually. I was not going to rush out on opening day to see it. I have never been eager to see a Tarantino film. As a matter of fact, I do not ever think I have seen any of his films. I will see it when I see it.
Well eventually became today. I must say that I am glad that I saw the film and was able to form my own opinion of it. It was actually one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I did not find the use of the N-word to be gratuitous. The derogatory term was used quite appropriately. My only criticism was the score and the soundtrack. While it went along with the spaghetti western intent, it irritated me because I saw no reason to "lighten" up the movie. It was a very violent movie and it depicted some of the most raw images of slavery I have seen on the big screen in a long time. I am not the biggest hip-hop fan, so the Rick Ross track I could do without. It just didn't seem to fit with that setting. But like I said, that is my only criticism of it.
It is a very violent film. I covered my eyes quite a bit. I really did not know much about Mandingo fighting and that was very hard to watch. They did a good job of getting me angry and setting the stage for catharsis to take place. The film is just shy of three hours and I did get a little restless. But make no mistake about it, the film held my attention. There were definitely some award winning performances. Samuel Jackson...I do not think that I have ever gotten so angry with a fictional black character while watching a movie. He played the role of the house n**** to tee. It was indeed a very unique film. As I mentioned earlier, the slavery images were very profound. They truly showed how even the most ignorant person with the "right" skin color was given more respect than a slave. The sadistic behavior of the slave owners and the overseers...let's just say the anger I felt was very real and like Kerry Washington I wondered, "What type of person could have survived this?" We grapple with the remnants of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial discrimination in our present world. For some of us it is unimaginable to deal with what we presently deal with. What is indeed unimaginable is what our ancestors went through and survived.
I think that it was fitting for this film to come out shortly after the film Lincoln was released. In this country, Lincoln gets all of the credit for ending slavery. Yes Lincoln carried the baton across the finish line. But many slaves were in hot pursuit of their freedom long before Lincoln. Django Unchained has motivated me to learn more about black abolishionists like Nat Turner. Slaves were oppressed, degraded and beaten into submission but there were many that had enough of a sound mind to muster up the courage to fight and advocate for themselves. We should not let our history be whitewashed. Don't get me wrong, there are many whites that contributed to the struggle and played a critical role in the quest for freedom. However, Django was not merely a figment of Quentin Tarantino's imagination. To me, the film opens the floor to a larger conversation about other true black heros that remain unsung.
To sum this up, if you were like me, very hesitant about seeing this film, I would encourage you to see it. It is worth the price of admission. If you have ruled the film out even before seeing it, I would encourage you to reconsider. The more positive reviews proved true for me and you may be pleasantly surprised as well.