12/21/2012 15:40 | By Ali Catterall, contributor, MSN Movies

Django Unchained review

Tarantino takes on the American slave trade, with explosive results.

Django Unchained - 5 stars

Released: 18 January 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson
Certificate: 18

What’s the story?
In a pre–Civil War America of the 1850s, a freed slave-turned-bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx) sets out to rescue his wife from evil plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

What did we think?
Combining his love of grindhouse and spaghetti westerns with a sharply intelligent approach to the subject matter, Django Unchained is up there with Tarantino’s best work.

His name is Django. He’s the fastest gunslinger in the South. And he likes the way you die, boy. With a title borrowed from a ludicrously violent 1966 cult classic, this is the spaghetti western epic Quentin Tarantino was always destined to make.

This isn’t your average saloon bar-shootout though. Django Unchained focuses on the sombre – and all-too tip-toed around – subject of American slavery. And while this may be awash with his usual blood and bullets, it’s easily the most nuanced and deadly serious film QT’s made to date, full of pertinent commentary on the thorny topic of race.

Jamie Foxx is Django (in a modest line of black movie cowboys), dishing out justice to rustlers and racists under the baking Southern sun. As he tells fellow bounty hunter Dr King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), “Killing white folks and getting paid for it… what’s not to like?”

As fine as Foxx is, he’s rather upstaged by a brilliant supporting cast, including the urbane Waltz (whose liberal, white German character can’t be named ‘Dr King’ by accident, surely) and a superb Samuel L Jackson as twisted, elderly ‘houseboy’ Stephen, who resents Django his freedom, but whose limited influence goes a long way. Meanwhile, as Stephen’s revolting boss, DiCaprio displays a great and most unexpected gift for sheer villainy.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film if it weren’t also punctuated with dark laughter, and here it’s at the expense of the Ku Klax Klan – riding up to the strains of Wagner, but unable to function due to a wardrobe malfunction. While Mel Brooks fans will spot nods to Blazing Saddles, of course, but also Young Frankenstein.

Ultimately, it’s a real return to form for a director who in recent years seemed to be losing his touch. Django Unchained proves Tarantino is once again firing on all cylinders.

5 stars

Verdict: An exhilarating blast of a film – with a literally dynamite climax.

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