Another grand, operatic Tarantino mash-up of movie genres
Inglourious Basterds is broken into titled chapters (first is ‘Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…’ ), very similar to other Quentin Tarantino movies. The style, tone, humor, characters, timing and pacing are also very comparable.
But for some reason, and maybe it’s the incredibly detailed WW2-era production value and cinematography, but Inglourious Basterds makes Tarantino feel more fresh and vivid than he has since the first Kill Bill .
To the great benefit of the film, there are no actors present who have stared in past Tarantino films. That is except for a couple short, somewhat necessary voiceovers from Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel, and a small role for Hostel -director/semi-actor Eli Roth, who shines in the sinister role of one of Lt. Aldo Raine’s (Brad Pitt) Jewish hit squad, nicknamed the ‘Bear Jew’ because he brutally beats Nazis to death using a Louisville Slugger (this is not a movie to bring the kids to).
While many people will probably see this movie because of Brad Pitt’s superstardom, maybe that’s a good thing, because it will open their eyes to the incredible new talent on display (Tarantino always seems to bring out the best of whoever he works with, whether known or unknown).
Since debuting at the Cannes Film Festival this past May (at 2 hours and 45 minutes, many people walked out, it’s since been cut down by about 15), many critics have been singing the praises of two actors in particular, Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent.
Waltz plays Col. Hans Landa, a charming but dastardly Nazi who considers himself a detective who is exceptionally talented at finding people, rather than a hired exterminator for Hitler (much to his dismay, he acquires the nickname the ‘Jew Hunter’). You never know if he really believes this strange rationalization, which ultimately makes the character all the more unpredictable and intimidating. Surely the most memorable on-screen villain since Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh a couple years ago in No Country for Old Men .
Melanie Laurent delicately plays an on-the-run Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus who escapes Landa’s grasp in the nerve-racking opening scene, only to meet up with him four years later after moving to Paris and inheriting a cinema at which the Nazis decide to premiere their newest propaganda film in, with all their most important figureheads attending (including an impish Hitler).
Shosanna plans her revenge by devising an act of sabotage on the premiere. So do the Raine’s group of ‘Basterds’.
That’s pretty much the extent of the plot. Accept it. The real pleasure comes from watching the scenes of tension between the characters slowly unravel, Tarantino doing what he does best – chewing the fat.
A central theme in all Tarantino’s films is revenge. He is great at writing and directing tales of deception, rage, retribution, and vengeance. He is great at writing edgy dialogue that knows exactly how to pushes people’s buttons (sometimes without you even realizing that they’re being pushed). His films seem to grow on you more and more as you watch them.
They’re not perfect. They may not be what we had in mind.
But damn are they entertaining and hard to turn away from.