All quiet tension and smouldering suspense, Quentin Tarantino’s third film as director is a triumphant change of pace from the brutal swagger of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

1970s blaxploitation star Pam Grier is ideally cast as Jackie Brown, an airline stewardess whose problems start when she’s arrested by government agent Micheal Keaton. How she quietly thinks her way out of trouble is the gist of the slow-burning story, which also features instant classic roles for Samuel L Jackson and Robert De Niro as two gormless crooks, Bridget Fonda as a scheming surfer girl, and, in the role of his career, Robert Forster as a surpremely laconic bail bondsman.

Complete with that inimitable curled lip delivery of her lines, Grier’s calm confidence is spellbinding. The film’s retro soul soundtrack and its 1970s-style garish credits are delectable trimmings, but it’s her deadpan grit that holds the film together. The escape route that she cleverly carves out for herself between Forster’s craggy cynicism and Jackson’s loud-mouthed brutality delivers black comic chuckles aplenty and whenever she and Forster are on screen together the movie positively glows with charisma. Tarantino certainly can pick his actors and the performances here are the stuff that modern movie dreams are made of.