Django Unchained ★★★★★

Tarantino loves to remind you that you're watching one of his films, his attention seeking approach is the basis of his style and often the most enjoyable element of his movies. He knows what he likes and wants to put it in your face so you too can see how cool it is. I'd say generally Tarantino movies are playful and fun. So I was intrigued to see how he approached the weighty subject matter of black slavery and racism in a pre-civil war era western. Especially after the high profile wrist slap Spike Lee gave him over his use of the n-word in Jackie Brown. "It’s just the n-word, the n-word, the n-word. He says he grew up on Blaxploitation films and that they were his favourite films, but he has to realise that those films do not speak to the breadth of the entire African-American experience. I mean the guy’s just stupid." It's almost like 15 years later Tarantino is saying "Well allow me to retort"...

Django Unchained drops more n-bombs than an NWA album. The majority of the white characters that populate the film are unashamedly racist and you could argue that the language rightly reflects their violent and hateful views. Having a black man going against the role he's been given, much to the shock and horror of white folks, is very reminiscent of Blazing Saddles, the humour lies in exposing the racism of the time while lampooning the ignorant. Along with the white and black buddy team up, Django owes Saddles a huge debt and stands very much on its shoulders. That said, there is also a layer of 70s Blaxploitation and modern rap culture being used to present how black people view themselves and interact with each other, which no doubt Tarantino finds to be 'cool'...Lee, I would imagine, not so much.

Waltz is again magnificent to watch, playing the film's only enlightened white character, aiding Django on his quest up the mountain. However, this time Foxx, DiCaprio and Jackson all bring their best to the table, preventing him from stealing the show. Tarantino gives them some superb dialogue, stripping out the usual pop culture conversations and focusing on building the characters and pushing forward the story. Much of the lengthy running time seems to have been given over to the actors to allow them space to breathe life into their parts as well as all those meaningful glances between them. The performances are so captivating that its easy to forget that much of what makes a Tarantino film great is the action. When the guns are finally drawn Tarantino is as happy as a child splashing around in a puddle after having had to sit still at the dinner table and behave. The typically excellent soundtrack will at times rattle your gold fillings, there is some stunning cinematography out on the range and the occasional snappy edit and giant graphic scrolling across the screen just to remind you whose movie you're watching...but this is Tarantino at his most reserved and it's all the better for it.

Edit - RollingStone: Spike Lee says Django Unchained is "disrespectful" to his ancestors:

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