By DonChipotle 3 Comments
Just a short, quick review before I have to leave.
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most widely debated directors currently making films. Several people love his work, others call him a pretentious film snob who weighs down movies with dialogue and pointless insertions of obscure cinema. His last film, Death Proof, part of Grindhouse, was generally considered to be the least entertaining part of the whole shebang. Whatever the opinion on the man, at the very least he, unlike fellow Grindhouse director Robert Rodriguez, is consistent in his films.
Inglourious Basterds is a story set in Nazi-occupied France in the early and later days of World War 2. The Third Reich has started routing out Jewish families, thanks in large part to Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the 'Jew Hunter'. But the Nazis are not without their problems, and the problems for the Fuhrer are ten men led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), known collectively as the Basterds. The Basterds, all Jewish soldiers, have made it their mission to collect 100 Nazi scalps. Each.
Though it may seem like the plot leads into a shoot-'em-up style of movie, the truth is, while there are moments of people getting killed in graphic ways, the majority of the film doesn't even focus on the Basterds but instead on the character of Shosanna Dreyfuss, owner of a small French theater. Movie-goers expecting a bloody action movie (and this could very well be the fault of the trailers) will be sorely disappointed as most of the movie finds characters engaged in discussions, be it in German or French. Though rather than hurt the pacing of the film, it enhances the moments where something exciting does happen. It's the build-up to the payoff that always comes after lengthy discussions; punctuated all the while by Tarantino's often sharp and witty dialogue.
The performances range from passable (Eli Roth's character 'Donny' mostly stands around talking with a funny accent) to outstanding (Christoph Waltz is fantastic as Landa; a nomination for Supporting Actor should be promised, if not given to him flatout), and even the cameos from Samuel L. Jackson (maybe not a cameo so much as the narrator) and Mike Meyers are delightful. The majority of the film is either in German or in French and naturally from native speakers they perform their roles exceptionally well, though the only true stand out is, again, Christoph Waltz. Brad Pitt seems a bit uncomfortable speaking in his accent, but he manages to pull it off with few hiccups.
Though the lengthy conversation scenes are plentiful, they are also a main flaw with the movie as a whole. Scenes tend to go on for far too long and serve no real point other than to name drop an obscure foreign film or to establish a character trait the audience already knows. Early on in the movie, for example, the character of Shosanna engages in a lengthy conversation with Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) about the differences between German films and French films and marquees. Later in the film, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) is in a bar populated with drunken German soldiers and the ensuing scene, though very well crafted, drags until finally the climax arrives and the audience isn't quite sure what happened, but only that something went wrong.
Tarantino is a story teller, and this fact is made known throughout this movie. It is well-shot, but most of the camera movements are used simply to give the audience a little variety from the scenes of conversation; very rarely are the camera sweeps used in a clever way, though when they are used cleverly, they really add a touch of style.
Though the movie certainly is entertaining, the editing sort of falls apart at the end. Not to give anything away, but at one point during the end something happens to Aldo Raine and he encounters someone, but there was never any indication of why or how that person got to where they were, and considering who it is it's kind of a misstep on the part of Tarantino. Though much attention is given to certain characters, others are literally forgotten by the midpoint. Half the Basterds, for example, are literally out of the picture after their initial scene with no explanation as to what happened. Most likely this was done due to time constraints, but to introduce characters only to drop them soon thereafter is silly.
On the whole, though, Inglourious Basterds is a solid, engaging film. People expecting an action flick will be sorely disappointed and no doubt bored. It's no Kill Bill volume 1. But it's not Death Proof, either.
"This might be my masterpiece," says Aldo Raine at one point during the film; though it's a quality film, it's no masterpiece and it's not as good as Reservoir Dogs, but then, which of his films ever will be.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: 4/5