Film review: Django Unchained

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, James Remar, Michael Parks, Don Johnson
Rating: (R16)
5 stars (out of 5)

Set in the slave-ridden Deep South where wealthy plantation owners rely on African labour to support the cotton economy, Django Unchained tells the story of one slave's quest to reunite with his wife.

Shackled and forcibly marched through the freezing winter, Django (Jamie Foxx) is unexpectedly freed by Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a travelling bounty hunter masquerading as a dentist. Initially seeking Django's help to identify his next bounty, Schultz (who despises slavery) agrees to help Django free his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) from the charismatic but psychotically unhinged plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo Di Caprio).

Tarantino is a master at distilling the big picture into a collection of cleverly orchestrated sequences worked around clever dialogue and interplay between the main protagonists. Crafting his screenplay from a number of obscure film references, Tarantino's mash-up of spaghetti Westerns and '70s blaxploitation certainly lends a visual panache to a story that blurs the boundaries between good and evil. Love him or loathe him, there is no denying Quentin Tarantino's reverence for genre and his creative ability to subvert it.

Dropping more N-bombs than a South Central gansta-rap crew, this revisionist take on America's shameful past is brutally confronting and thought-provoking. In crafting the unconventional ''westerner'' character of Django, Tarantino compels you on the one hand to cheer him along on his journey, all the while blurring the boundaries between good and evil.

Liable to ignite debate about the wisdom of dealing with the ignominy of the slave trade via frivolous dialogue and visceral over-the-top shoot-em-ups, Tarantino's modus operandi has and always will be entertainment, and Django Unchained is top shelf. Gritty characters, evocative cinematography, fantastic music and a liberal interpretation of history, Tarantino has nailed a film that is as good as anything he has done since Jackie Brown.

Best Thing: The casting. All of the performances are fantastic.

Worst Thing: The length. At nearly three hours, a few scenes could have been sacrificed.

See it with: Anybody not squeamish at the sight of blood.

By Mark Orton