Yes, Shultz could've chosen any number of other courses of action to kill Candie while surviving the ordeal.
However, Shultz didn't really make a rational, considered choice. He acted on impulse, out of rising anger, and he didn't have self control at the time. Remember, he literally says he couldn't control his actions, right after he kills Candie.
Shultz is a man of great restraint, having throughout the film showed consistent patience and cool calculation in his actions. Even when he was killing people, he never seemed to loose his cool or his temper, and always seemed methodical and calm in his actions. Never did we see emotion take hold and drive him to kill, nor did we see him exhibit anger or malice toward the people he killed at the time of the encounters.
Except with Candie. With Candie, Shultz was shaking and sweating and having flashbacks to seeing a slave torn apart by vicious dogs. Shultz was at the end of his patience, he was barely containing his emotions, and finally they began to bubble forth as he went on his rant about Candie and expressed his disgust with the man.
And here is the crucial point -- Candie knew Shultz was losing his self control, and Candie intentionally pushed Shultz and sought to further antagonize him. Candie's sense of self-entitlement and domination made him feel certain he could demand subservience from Shultz and that the other man would meekly oblige. It never occurred to Candie that he was playing with fire, because he never thought he lacked control of the situation and of the people involved. So he made a dreadful mistake of antagonizing a killer who was on the verge of being unable to restrain his deadly rage and impulses.
Shultz was not, I feel, going to murder Candie until the very moment when he walked toward Candie and stuck out his hand. It was a choice made in the instant, without thought and with complete blind rage. But -- and here is the telling part -- Shultz, just like Candie, was so certain of himself and consumed by a sudden sense of control over life and death that he was no longer even considering the safety of the situation or the consequences of his outcome. He, too, pushed another killer toward a deadly reaction.
Once he committed the heat-of-the-moment murder, his fate was sealed, because he had that little single shot pistol up his sleeve, but he was cornered and facing an enemy with a shotgun. There was no longer time or chance to do anything to prevent the reaction that followed, and so Shultz couldn't have at that point avoided dying himself. It all comes down to the fact he murdered Candie in a split second, following a rash emotional impulse he could no longer control. In that context, then, there was nothing left for Shultz to figure out, for he was doomed.
EDIT: I should also note, Shultz clearly snapped at the moment he was overcome by a desire to "wipe that smile" off Candie's smug face. This sentiment is probably one that a lot of people can relate to. So, just imagine if the person made you witness a slave being chewed apart and then abused a woman in front of you and now smirkingly demanded you shake his hand, all while you see in your mind the terrible things he's going to keep doing to other people every second he's still alive. Then imagine you kill people for a living and have a gun in your sleeve. That smug smirking grin on Candie's face was probably really the straw that broke the camel's back for Shultz.
Answer by Laura Michet, Writer
He definitely could have! I wondered the same thing myself after I got out of the theater. I figured:
- He could have shot the man holding the shotgun first. Candie didn't have a weapon and couldn't have done anything about it.
- He could have shaken hands with Candie, walked out the door, then turned around and shot one or both of them in the doorway before making a run for it, thus initiating an exciting chase scene.
- He could have returned to his room, then killed Candie some other time before leaving. It could have been a cat-burglar kind of job.
- He could have set some kind of trap that would kill Candie, similar to the one he used to kill Big Daddy -- assuming that Candie was also interested in hunting him down and killing him on the road.
However, there are a few reasonable excuses for why he decided/Tarantino decided that he would shoot Candie in the first place.
- I previously wrote an answer to Django Unchained (2012 film): Why does Dr. Schultz take such drastically foolish action after making the deal with Candie? explaining why I think he did choose to kill Candie that way in the first place. I focused on his personality and his love of doing crazy bullshit when passionate about something. His behavior, although pretty stupid, does fit his personality pretty well.
- Tarantino probably decided from the beginning that Schultz would have to die so that Django can take over the heroics for the final part of the film. Django is the hero; he needs to be the one to get revenge despite all odds. If his awkward, morally ambiguous German white-dude friend was still around pulling off heroics at the end of the film, Django's victory would be less impressive. Obi Wan Kenobi/Gandalf/Yoda's gotta die.
- When it comes to the plot of the movie: we've just sat still in complete agony for what, twenty minutes, watching Candie and Samuel L Jackson completely browbeat Our Heroes into terrified submission. Who wants to watch them go back to their rooms and stew? Nobody! There is way too much tension in that room for someone NOT to do something completely over-the-top. Like fire a gun. At a plantation owner. In the same room as his chief lackey, who also has, like, three guns.
It's not the most sensible plot twist ever. But not much about this movie is "realistic" in any way, and I don't think this hole or flaw is too big to ruin my enjoyment of the film, particularly since it works well enough with Schultz's personality.
More questions on Movies:
- After the story ends, is it possible/plausible that Django and Hildy will get away?
- Isn't Butch in worse shape after the events in the pawn shop than he was before?
- How would one describe Quentin Tarantino's style?