Review: Inglourious Basterds
PLOT: During the first year of the German occupation of France, a Jewish girl named Shosanna watches in horror as her family is killed. She escapes. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Aldo Raine is organizing a group of Jewish American soldiers known as “the basterds” to take some bloody revenge on everything that is Nazi. Part propaganda and part pulp fiction, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS brings these elements together for a stunning conclusion. As both the basterds and Shosanna plan for their own personal payback. It all makes for a bloody good time.
There is a moment near the end of Quentin Tarantino’s latest which is so tremendously powerful, that it will surely make for one of the most visually stunning moments in film history. It is a shining example of how to celebrate film and the power that it holds. In fact, the last half hour or so of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is truly a masterful achievement. It is rich, poetic and beautiful, and it feels as if everything that is good in cinema was captured in this brilliant sequence. And lucky for us, with its just over two and a half hour running time, there is much more to admire throughout. Tarantino’s remake is not so much a war film even though it is expressly about WWII and the powers behind it. It is much more than that. It is certainly one of the directors finest hours, and I think he knows it. While I absolutely appreciate Tarantino, I am not always a diehard fan of his work. This time however, he has made such a near perfect motion picture, that I can’t help but be a little awestruck.
The story about a group of ragtag Jewish Americans giving the Nazi’s something to be afraid of is not at all what you would expect it to be. It has the gung ho-ness that the original had by paying homage to the earlier films in this genre, yet it also achieves something slightly more potent on its own. I don’t have the heart to give away too much about the how and why, but believe me, there is an aching love for the power of film here that reminded me a little of CINEMA PARADISO. Yes, they are two very different films and have little to nothing in common. But the way Quentin is able to transfer his love for the silver screen into the Oscar worthy performance of Melanie Laurent and what her character must do is simply astonishing. Her work as a theatre owner with a secret is captivating and demands your attention. Speaking of Oscar worthy, it would be criminal not to mention the “Jew Hunter”, Col. Hans Landa played by Christoph Waltz. In the opening scene, he commands your attention and is irresistibly charming while having a devil’s soul. These two performances are reason enough to see Basterds. But luckily, there is much more to love.
Tarantino has also found a way to channel that iconic dialogue of his into something we‘ve never seen from him before. While sometimes the never-ending discussions of a burger, sex or a myriad of others subjects can fall a little short for me, there was never a time during Basterds that the dialogue felt unnecessary. Thankfully, much of it is spouted by Mr. Waltz with his very nasty Hans Landa persona. The way he plays with these characters in a vicious and unapologetic cat and mouse nature is funny and frightening all at the same time. His use of the dialogue to attain what he wants from somebody is fantastic. The script feels as fresh and vibrant as anything Tarantino has done before. It is frightening, hilarious and most importantly, sometimes incredibly touching. The relationship between Melanie Laurent and her wannabe beau, Frederick Zoller (a terrific Daniel Bruhl) is extremely profound.
As for the rest of the cast, you have a ton of highlights including the utterly entertaining show from Brad Pitt as LT. Aldo Raine. He continues to take chances and offer up fascinating roles that are far more interesting than most of the actors in his generation. He commands the screen much like he commands his men as they hunt down Nazis, collecting their scalps. Yes, their scalps. But with that, I was surprised at how tame the violence and gore is. This is not nearly as gruesome as one would expect. There are merely a handful of scenes that get really nasty. Yet there are certainly a few little shockers that will rattle those not used to Quentin’s style. One woman actually exclaimed during the screening I attended, something along the lines of, ‘Do they really have to show all of this?’. Ironically, it wasn’t even close to being one of the most disturbing scenes, but I guess you can’t please everybody with mayhem.
With a terrific cast and an impressive script, Tarantino also creates his most visually inspired piece to date. This is such a beautiful film, whether it is the final sequence or a bloody shootout in a tavern, it really is a sight to see. While it certainly has a “pulp” quality, and in some ways, I would’ve been fine to see some of that taken out. I didn’t really need to see the characters names on-screen when they were introduced, it slightly took away from this particular film. But with few minor flaws, this is certainly near perfection. This fantastically shot work of fiction may feel a tad propaganda for some, and WWII didn’t happen this way, but this isn’t a history lesson. This is more about the power and soul of film as opposed to a shoot ‘em up war flick. An accomplished work that can be partially described by its title, Inglourious Basterds is absolutely glorious. My rating 9.5/10 -- JimmyO