Tarantino in Review: ‘Inglourious Basterds’
Cast: Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger
Synopsis: During the occupation of France during WWII several different groups come to a head in the lead up to a Nazi movie premiere. Lt. Aldo Raine and his squad of ‘The Basterds’ spread fear among the enemy with their mass killings of Nazi’s, a British agent joins them to make a contact among the German film business, a Jewish orphan and cinema owner plots her revenge and Col. Hans Lander aka. ‘The Jew Hunter’ plays them all to his own end.
Review: Inglourious Basterds is a movie created by a director who has hit his stride. Never before or since has Tarantino managed the perfect balance between his creativity and actual film-making prowess. Taking a decisive step away from the realism that marked his early work, Nazi occupied France is an almost surreal land populated by larger than life characters out to pursue their own demented and violent agendas. Historical accuracy isn’t out the window before the party gets started but it was never going to survive the night.
It is possibly the longest work in progress for Tarantino, having started life during the production of Pulp Fiction as a WWII set retread of The Good, the Bad and The Ugly. The evolution of the film shows in the characters, this being the most well developed cast of characters Tarantino has put together. Brad Pitt’s name is at the top of the marquee but the star of the show is Christolph Waltz who won an Oscar for his performance as The Jew Hunter. He’s a complex character but surprisingly Tarantino and Waltz don’t go into a great deal of depth, or show much of his inner workings on the surface. When he reveals his intentions to turn traitor it is not only completely disarming but the viewer is given no insight into how genuine he is. Scenes where the Jew Hunter’s intentions are left clouded are the best in the film. The opening dialogue shows that he always knows more then he’ll let on and can manipulate people easily, so when he’s eating dessert with Shoshanna the audience is left uncertain as to whether or not he recognizes her or what he might do.
The cold and cruel Jew Hunter is countered by the wildcard, Aldo the Apache. Brad Pitt is quite clearly having a ball playing an all out nutjob, and even though the character is on the side of ‘good’ (such as it exists in this movie) he’s the most bloodthirsty and vicious. The movie is full of paradoxical characters like the Apache and the Jew Hunter, and as with all with the best Tarantino films it’s these unique characters who make the movie what it is. Shoshanna is possibly the best developed female character in a Tarantino film to date with a great performance. Not that they’re all great. Mike Myers as a British General feels like stunt casting and Eli Roth is downright appalling as The Bear Jew. After building up the character for several intense minutes he becomes the very definition of disappointment walking out of the tunnel, and every time he forces a performance through following his entrance produces cringe from the viewer. Other notable characters like Hugo Stiglitz would benefit from more screen time.
The heavy use of stylized violence approaches an almost comical level. The brutal and bloody scalping of Nazi’s is a struggle to watch but the generous amounts of flying claret during the bar shoot out is like a celebration of schlock. In spite of the movie’s reputation for brutality is only features during a small amount of screen time. The bulk of the movie is built around long scenes of dialogue, and this is where the director’s gift for writing is at it’s best. From the Jew Hunter’s interrogation of a farmer to Aldo shaking down prisoners for information to Michael Fassbender shooting the shit during a tight situation every line forms part of a great rhythm that propels the movie along.
When the final scene closes we have Aldo say in a not so subtle nod that this ‘may well be his masterpiece’. It may not be Tarantino’s masterpiece but it comes damn close.
Score: NINE outta TEN