"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of vengeance." That's the tagline for Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's first film since 2009's Oscar-nominated Nazi-themed blockbuster Inglourious Basterds. The new film opens on Dec. 25, and the trailer was released Wednesday (watch it below), previewing Jamie Foxx's turn as a slave named Django who is drafted by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to track a group of villainous brothers. Because the brothers captured Django's wife (Kerry Washington) and sold her to a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio), Django is immediately on board — with blood in his eyes. From the quintessential Quentinisms to the A-list casting, here are five things that have critics buzzing:
1. The clever use of anachronistic music
The trailer opens with the moaning of Johnny Cash and transitions into the wailing of James Brown — neither of which is period-appropriate. Of course, Tarantino's use of contemporary music is borderline legendary, says Mike Histon at What Culture, and these tunes "fit pretty much seamlessly" in the trailer. Disappointingly, says Russ Fischer at Slash Film, the songs are "a lot more mainstream" than I expect from Tarantino. "They're not bad choices," just more obvious than usual.
2. The divisive casting of Jamie Foxx
Foxx's casting was initially booed by those who thought he couldn't pull off the tricky tone of a Tarantino film, says Fischer. But Foxx's terrific moments here prove skeptics wrong. At the very least, says George Wales at Total Film, Foxx sinks his teeth into the juicy dialogue. His best line: "Kill white folks, and they pay for it? What's not to like?"
3. Leonardo DiCaprio's counterintuitive turn as a villain
Foxx steals most of the trailer time, leaving me "eager to see more of DiCaprio's performance as the dastardly plantation owner," says Adam Chitwood at Collider. The villainous character is against type for the dashing leading man. Leo rocks a sleazy goatee and chews scenery liberally — and "seems to relish every moment," says Ethan Sacks at New York's Daily News.
4. The many Tarantino signatures
The trailer "oozes with [trademark Tarantino] style, from the startling image of some blood-spattered flowers to the whip-smart dialogue," says Wales. This is very much in "QT's oeuvre," which should thrill the polarizing director's fans, even if it doesn't convert any newcomers. The trailer packs a classic Tarantino punch, says Michael Arbeiter at Hollywood, but I expect Django to be "softer and more sophisticated than the highly stylized" Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. Inglourious Basterds proved that the director can tell a "calmer, more serious, and more intimate story" — and I predict Django will unfold in that vein.
5. The tricky foray into "blaxploitation"
Tarantino has been saying for years that he wants to "use the framework of an exploitation film to deal with big American topics," says Alex Pappademas at Grantland. This "Quentified take on '70s blaxploitation westerns" may be that film. Blaxpoitation films, particularly westerns, were "totally nuts, profoundly un-PC," and not necessarily good, but they did rewire movie myths around black heroes and air truths about the country's legacy of racism. So don't expect Django to be purely "about Jamie Foxx saying cold-blooded shit and popping caps in Klansmen." Tarantino likely has more up his sleeve.