Star rating - 9/10
As a real fan of Quentin Tarantino, particularly his early works such as Pulp Fiction (one of my all time favourite films) and Reservoir Dogs, I was very interested to see if Django Unchained represented something of a return to form after a couple of offerings generally held to be below his normal exceptional standards. And I am happy to report that it is another gem, perhaps not quite hitting those dizzy heights, but genuinely exceptional, certainly compared to most other celluloid offerings around.
It is his love letter to the Italian spaghetti westerns of the 1960s, but with a focus on that most controversial of subjects, slavery. And yes of course it is ultra violent, this is after all Tarantino. But much of the violence is done in such in an over the top, exaggerated way so as to be almost comic - almost. And let's deal with the other main popular talking point about this film at the outset - the use of the 'n' word to refer to African Americans, both those who are slaves and those who are liberated. Yes it appears liberally, but it does not feel at all out of place or offensive, at least no more than the characters using it are supposed to be. It is a reflection of the racism of the time the film is set - America in the 1860s, before the Civil War and emancipation of enslaved people. For me this is simply a non-issue.
The story follows the fortunes of Django, played brilliantly by Jamie Foxx, who is liberated from his own slavery by the colourful German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz to help him to track down some wanted men with a fortune on their heads, dead or alive. Christoph Waltz is just wonderful as the nomadic doctor, who is cunning, charismatic, and has an enlightened attitude to going into partnership with a former slave to help him to get what he wants. And Django is prepared to assist the good doctor in his bloody line of business, in return for helping him to find his beloved wife Broomhilda. The couple were slaves together when slaves were not allowed to get married, and then were cruelly separated.
Their quest brings them into the path of wealthy slave owner Calvin Candie, who is a little less enlightened in his treatment of slaves, to say the least. Leonard DiCaprio plays the racist estate owner with aplomb, in one of his best roles for years. The plot to deceive Candie is delicious, but it does not go quite according to plan.
Tarantino uses humour and violence together like no other director is capable of doing. His imagination is unique and wild, and his talent simply unprecedented. As usual he picks a stunning soundtrack which is note perfect to match the action. It's a long film at 136 minutes, but with such fast paced dialogue and storytelling it never feels like it. So go on - worship at the feet of the master again. You know you want to...