Have a look at that trailer and tell me you don’t feel a little rush of excitement. All Tarantino’s films arrive with a high sense of expectation, but nothing has given me that little shiver of anticipation since Jackie Brown – I was beginning to think he’d shot his load. But no. Django Unchained is a blistering return to what I like to think of as very good Tarantino. As opposed to not that good or actually quite pants Tarantino. This is him with his head back and howling with laughter, running buck naked through a cactus field then mooning a bus full of nuns. It’s Tarantino remembering what he does well, and doing it. Well.
He arrived at our screening shouting and whooping, fresh from shutting Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s butt down, and barracked everyone for being a little too reserved. It didn’t take long for the audience to warm up – this is a long film at not far short of three hours, but it starts with a bang and keeps going at a pace most directors would find hard to sustain.
Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave given his freedom by bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) so that he can help track down three wanted men. It’s another astonishing performance from Waltz, perfectly balancing charm and dignity with ruthlessness. The relationship between the two men is cast like a beam of light against the background of slavery – Shultz is a good man, albeit a little trigger happy, and Django a willing partner if it means he can finally track down his wife, the beautiful Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). She’s been sold to wealthy landowner Calvin Candie, a man who is as comfortable taking a black woman as his mistress as he is setting the dogs on a slave he has no more use for. DiCaprio is surprisingly good, giving Candie the sort of charm that only the truly evil can carry off (imagine Margaret Thatcher offering you a jelly baby). But Django Unchained‘s baddest baddie is Stephen, Candie’s house slave (an almost unrecognisable Samuel L Jackson, unlucky to miss out on an oscar nod) whose family have served the Candies for years and whose loyalty betrays his roots in the most miserable of ways. All the performances are top notch, there’s a real sense that not only are these actors at the top of their game, but they are having a really good time while they’re up there.
It’s violent, yes. But no more so than plenty of other films that have come in for a lot less hand-wringing (I’m looking at you, Seven Psychopaths). And it’s not entirely perfect, the biggest bum note for sure is Tarantino’s Australian accent – he really needs to get over the urge to try out that acting lark. Ultimately though, this is a blast, it’ll send you home with a sense of exhilaration and delight that the old boy has got his mojo back. As Candie says in the film, he’s had our curiosity for a while but now Tarantino really does have our attention.