Review: Django Unchained

If you are growing weary of all the praise that Quentin Tarantino's latest opus, Django Unchained is receiving please read no further - because there is going to be a lot more gushing here.

Django Unchained sees recently freed slave, Django (Jamie Foxx) travel across pre-civil war United States alongside German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). The pair launch a daring plan to rescue Django's wife (Kerry Washington) from cruel plantation owner, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). The film is loosely inspired by Sergio Corbucci's 1966 Italian western, Django starring Franco Nero.

The 165 minute run time of Django Unchained may look like a daunting prospect prior to seeing the film, but Tarantino makes this feel like a third of that - time really does fly when you are having fun. We are presented with one slick and sensational sequence after another, boasting all that one could want from a modern Tarantino epic. The nostalgic roots of the classic Spaghetti western are present from the onset with the 1966 film theme sung by Rocky Roberts, fully transporting us back the old west in the opening titles. This rich nostalgia feels ever present through continual homages seen in costumes, sets and characters, whilst also in the ultra-violence one may expect from a classic 1960s/70s European western.

Django Unchained is a truly rich watch - Tarantino never presents us anything in a half-hearted manner. The blood-splattering violence feels full throttle, whilst Tarantino's direction feels slick and modern yet maintains his fondness for the classic Spaghetti western aesthetic. The same can be said for the sets and costumes which truly transport us back to a classic Western style from Candie's lush mansion in the plantation to the wooden saloons of the Texan west.

Tarantino's screenplay feels as sharp as ever with every line of dialogue making some sort of impact - whether it be furthering the friendship between Django and Schultz or the comic panache of the KKK questioning the usefulness of masks with small eye-holes. We are also presented with a rich variety of diverse characters, played by one of the strongest ensemble casts assembled by the director.

Whilst Jamie Foxx excels as Django, Christoph Waltz's German bounty hunter is likely to be an immediate fan favourite. Schultz's quick vocabulary and sincerity are conveyed magnificently by Waltz, an actor whose mere presence has the ability to grip the viewer. However, it is Leonardo DiCaprio's charming yet malevolent Southern plantation owner, Calvin Candie that has stuck in my mind. It is a pleasant surprise to see DiCaprio in a Tarantino penned role and the actor clearly gives the part his all. Samuel L. Jackson's role as Stephen, Candie's butler, is also likely to surprise viewers in its maliciousness. Don Johnson also proves to be a chief scene-stealer as does a pitch-perfect cameo from original Django, Franco Nero.

Django Unchained is a magnificent watch, showcasing a director still at his best. It proves to be terrific fun from the onset with stellar performances, gripping dialogue and more than a few homages to the classic Euro-western.

Rating: 5/5
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