×

A critical review of ‘Django Unchained’:

Eye on the Oscars 2013: Best Picture

Writer-helmer Quentin Tarantino has always been a crix favorite. Each of his six previous feature-length directorial efforts garnered approval from at least 84% of critics, according to the reviews surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes. His latest genre-bending blood fest, “Django Unchained,” continues the streak of widespread acclaim.

Popular on Variety

For critics, Tarantino’s slave-liberating epic invited references to 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds.” After all, both boast titles alluding to Italian action films and play with history as freely as they play with genre, allowing the oppressed to enact vengeance on the oppressor. These comparisons were favorable, with Marc Mohan of the Portland Oregonian writing that “Django” is “not quite as inspired as ‘Basterds'” but “close enough to make no difference.”

Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson received a great deal of positive attention for their supporting work. Lead Jamie Foxx was often overlooked for his more subtle performance, but writing for NPR, Stephanie Zacharek said Foxx is “terrific precisely because he’s so unflashy.”

Still, Waltz was the MVP in many eyes for his turn as the eloquent bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz.

“Theoretically supporting Foxx in the title role, Waltz doesn’t steal the picture,” wrote Richard Corliss of Time. “He’s handed it and handles the opportunity with effortless craft.”

Critics were split on the film’s 165-minute running time, with some citing the length as exhausting and others finding it generous. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune suggested Tarantino is “a lousy self-editor” who “struggles with pacing and excess and detours.” At the other end of the spectrum, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed the movie “shouldn’t be a minute shorter.”

While the debate over the movie’s take on slavery might be contentious in some circles, most film critics stepped up to defend this aspect of Tarantino’s latest. A.O. Scott of the New York Times argued “Django” is characterized by “moral disgust with slavery” and “instinctive sympathy for the underdog.”

Variety said: “The film pays breathtaking respect not just to Tarantino’s many cinematic influences, but to the country itself, envisioning a way out of the slavery mess it depicts. In sheer formal terms, ‘Django Unchained’ is rich enough to reward multiple viewings, while thematics will make this thorny ‘southern’ — as the director aptly dubs it — perhaps his most closely studied work.”

Eye on the Oscars 2013: Best Picture
Are directors behind punishing run times? | The upset that wasn’t an upset: ‘Shakespeare in Love’
Critics praise, punch nominees
Pointed critiques accompany plaudits for the contenders, giving voters plenty to chew on
“Amour” | “Argo” | “Beasts of the Southern Wild” | “Django Unchained” | “Les Miserables” | “Life of Pi” | “Lincoln” | “Silver Linings Playbook” | “Zero Dark Thirty”

More Film

  • Benh Zeitlin Wendy Movie BTS

    Benh Zeitlin Goes Old-School With Stunts and Puppets for His Peter Pan Film 'Wendy'

    It has taken eight years for Benh Zeitlin to deliver the follow-up to his Oscar-nominated 2012 feature debut “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” But you could say the idea for “Wendy,” which reimagines the classic “Peter Pan” from the viewpoint of his female friend (played by first-time actor Devin France), has been percolating far longer [...]

  • 'A Quiet Place 2' Still Emily

    Box Office: 'A Quiet Place 2' Tracking $55 Million-Plus Debut

    John Krasinski’s follow-up to “A Quiet Place” is expected to make plenty of noise at the box office when it releases in theaters on March 20. The sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II,” is on track to earn $55 million during opening weekend, according to early estimates. If the horror film is able to capture [...]

  • The Invisible Man Movie

    How 'The Invisible' Man Reinvents the Monster Movie for a New Audience

    In 2018, director Leigh Whannell met with Universal Pictures executives, thinking that they wanted to talk about another project. Instead, they brought up a surprising idea, to reinvent H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man” as a stand-alone thriller targeted to a new generation.  The studio had just endured a dismal start to the reboot of its monster [...]

  • Candyman

    Jordan Peele's 'Candyman' Gets Gory First Trailer

    Jordan Peele is back with another terrifying thriller, this time taking on the 1992 horror classic “Candyman.” The official trailer for MGM and Universal Pictures’ remake was released on Thursday and tells the story of an artist fixated on a mysterious hook-handed killer, deemed the Candyman. “The urban legend is, if you say his name [...]

  • The Good Doctor

    From 'Masked Singer' to 'The Good Doctor,' Korean Formats Take Hold on U.S. Screens

    Accepting his award for original screenplay at this year’s Oscars, director Bong Joon Ho triumphantly declared,  “This is a very first Oscar to South Korea.” Little did he know that the second, third and fourth were swiftly coming his way on a night that saw “Parasite” make history. Combine that with the fact that two [...]

  • Karena Evans

    Tinder Renews Original Series 'Swipe Night,' Director Karena Evans to Return (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tinder is having more than just a fling with its first ever original series, “Swipe Night.” The ubiquitous dating app has renewed the interactive scripted project for a second season, and it has tapped season one director Karena Evans (Drake’s “In My Feelings,” Starz’s “P Valley”) to helm the project. App users can expect it [...]

  • Modo Avião

    Netflix’s ‘Airplane Mode’ Sets New Non-English Language Feature Record

    RIO DE JANEIRO  Cesar Rodrigues’ “Airplane Mode” is the most popular non-English language feature on Netflix so far in the world, Netflix disclosed exclusively to Variety on Thursday Feb. 27. The first Netflix original feature production in Brazil, released on Jan. 23, has been watched by nearly 28 million households, of which one third are in Brazil [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content