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Rashid Irani's review: Django Unchained

movie-reviews Updated: Mar 23, 2013 11:42 IST
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Django Unchained
Direction: Quentin Tarantino
Actors: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo di Caprio
Rating: *****

In Hollywood the king of cool still rules. Quentin Tarantino, whose last film was the World War II revenge fantasy lnglourious Basterds (2009), now ventures into the pre-Civil War America to address issues of race and slavery. The outcome is an audacious cinematic homage to the second-string spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. It also works as a meditation on vengeance, violence and the virulent racism prevalent in the Deep South at the end of the 19th century. In other words, Django Unchained is brutal, blood-soaked and brilliant.

In one of the breeziest two-and-three-quarter hours you're likely to spend at a multiplex, this 'Southern' (the director's own description) begins with a bravura sequence. Somewhere in Texas, circa 1858, the eponymous slave (Foxx) is freed from his shackles by a German dentist-turned-bounty hunter (Waltz).

In return, the liberated black man must help his abolitionist saviour identify and bring to justice a trio of redneck outlaws. After Django (the D is silent, he cheekily asserts) is unchained, it's on to the sprawling Mississippi cotton plantation where his still-enslaved wife (Kerry Washington) is forced into sexual bondage by the ruthless owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Alternately humourous and horrific, the narrative winds down in a finale which ensures an explosive payoff not only for the titular hero but the viewer as well. Tarantino infuses the proceedings with an array of filmic references, a heap of gun-toting action and a very strong emotional undercurrent.

The enfant terrible of contemporary cinema has written wickedly funny dialogue for his colourful characters. With characteristic abandon, the word n*gger is sprinkled liberally throughout the film.

No matter how grave the situation, it's counterbalanced by bits of absurdist humour. Who but Quentin Tarantino, for instance, would stage a Klu Klux Klan-style vigilante raid during which the gunslingers argue about their hooded apparel?

Put simply, Django Unchained is the zingiest entertainment of the year.