Aug 25 2009

Unreal Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

Published by at 10:00 am under Movies,Reviews

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It’s been a theory for some time that Quentin Tarantino is an evil genius. His films are rambling, brutal and meticulously planned, sometimes taking years before they’re finally ready for the world stage. Such is the case with Inglourious Basterds, the World War II movie he’s been wanting to make for the better part of a decade. What could possibly take that long to craft, shape and mold?

Well, the rewriting of World War II of course.

Only, and I repeat ONLY Quentin Tarantino could get away with the absolute absurdities that populate this film. The “Inglorious Bastards” were in fact a real group of guerilla fighters in WWII who surely carried out a number of important missions. But Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds?” They singlehandedly change the course of the entire war, and the parallel universe spelling that’s been mysterious for so long certainly makes sense now.

The Basterds are an elite Jewish commando team led by Lt. Aldo “Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) and Sgt. Donny “Bear Jew” Donowitz (Eli Roth). They’re embedded deep in Nazi occupied France, and terrorize the Germans with shock an awe techniques including disembowelment, scalping, baseball bat beating and of course, branding the lone survivor with a Swastika carved into his skull and letting him tell the tale to the others.

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Why yes, that is Ryan the temp and Neal from Freaks and Geeks.

Across the country lives Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who owns a local movie theater. She’s chatted up by a local Nazi movie star and war hero, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), who persuades film director and Nazi second-in-command, Joseph Goebbels, to premiere his latest propaganda film at her theater.

Unfortunately for the Germans, Dreyfus’s family happened to be killed by an SS hit squad led by Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who is running security for the premiere. Her plan is to lock the doors, and burn the theater full of Nazis to the ground, exacting revenge on all those responsible for her shattered life.

But even more unfortunately for the Germans, the Basterds get wind of the premiere as well, and once they learn that Hitler himself will be there, they leap into action with their own plan, which involves explosives, machine guns and a German double agent, film actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger).

For as absolutely batshit insane as Inglorious Basterds is, it suffers from predictable Tarantino pacing. The involves the film being broken up into “chapters” which you would know will not intersect with each other until the end. During each chapter, there is an extended Tarantino-esque small talk conversation between a few of the characters, which ultimately climaxes in most of the people onscreen dying. Rinse. Dry. Repeat.

However, let me quickly backtrack by saying that even though it’s formulaic, both the dialog in this film and the action scenes orchestrated are among some of the best that Tarantino has ever done. There are no 45 minutes long Death Proof-ian gab sessions. Every line of every conversation has been perfectly written, and it’s clear Tarantino brought out the best in each and every one of his actors to get them saying it exactly how he had it pictured. And no one does this more perfectly than Christoph Waltz as Col. Landa. He outshines everyone else in the film regardless of A-list status, and come this winter, might even be holding a statue in his hand for his flawless performance here.

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Best Supporting. No Doubt.

Yes, the violence in the film is brutal, as you might expect, but it’s not fountains of blood via Kill Bill, it’s much more Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and you’ll only see bloodshed in short controlled bursts. I regret is that we didn’t get to see a bit more of the Basterds hunting Nazis, but it was probably wise of the film to hold back in this regard, it makes the end just that much greater.

And oh, the ending. I’m really not sure if there has ever been a bigger payoff in movie history. The grand finale scene in the movie theater that Tarantino orchestrates is wonderfully mad, twisted and borderline psychotic. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re watching Valkyrie and you know how things turn out. You don’t. I promise, you absolutely don’t.

Without a doubt, I believe that Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s masterpiece, and from a man whose entire catalog is made up of classics, that’s saying something. He’s grown up from the frenetic timelines of Pulp Fiction. He’s learned from Reservoir Dogs how to show us a bit of the action without being overly withholding. He’s moved past Kill Bill and now understands how to edit so you don’t have to split your movie in half. After three decades of learning and growing as a filmmaker., Tarantino has now achieved a nearly perfect film, and I absolutely can’t imagine what he’s planning next to top this one.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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The last thing you Nazi scum will ever see.





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10 responses so far

  • IcemanD

    Great Review, I’m really looking forward to seeing this film. I’ve been a long time Tarantino fan (although I don’t belong to the “he can’t do no wrong” camp) and always look forward to new films from him.

  • ComfortableMadness

    I saw this movie on Friday and in a word, brilliant. I agree that Waltz should take home some gold come winter. Everytime he was onscreen he stole the show. I was dissapointed that the Basterds were not in it all that much but the movie just offered too much for me to really care. There are at least a half dozen scenes that are so well crafted that it’s scary. The bar scene with Von Hammersmark and the very beginning with Col. Landa especially.

  • Sverrir Sigfusson

    I went to a pre-screening yesterday (it opens here tomorrow) and oh my, I loved it :) I thought the entire cast was pitch perfect (Waltz being the best of the best). Best movie of the year so far for me.

  • chelsea

    i agree… the pacing was predictable, however it was genius. every single frame of this movie could be made into a poster. his skills have vastly improved and every single actor in the movie (minus mike meyers) was perfection.

  • Lagrange

    I’m quite unhappy with Inglourious Basterds.
    The beginning was okay, good tension building. The middle was good and I sure had some good laughts.
    But the ending really dissapointed me. I can’t just ignore the flaws just because the movie has the name Tarantino on it! Tarantino is building up two parallel stories and then they pass each other totally unnoticed. Even worse, at the end the two basterds (storyline 2) in the theather don’t even make a comment on the fire (storyline 1). The only element the two storylines kind of have in common is the “Jew Hunter” but he doesn’t connect them in any way at all. And then, for some strange reason, the basterds decide to commit suicide and stay in the cinema for machine gun kills, knowing the building will blow up anyway. They would fail escaping because the girl ordered to lock the doors. But they, successfully avoiding interaction, don’t even try. And that showdown isn’t even fun watching. Despite “killing 88 Yakuza in a fight” fun-violence, it’s “shooting masses of unarmed people” disturbing-violence. And okay, even if you like the “mad, twisted and borderline psychotic … payoff”, then thats still not an excuse to create such a plothole. There are two different plans to kill the big nazis in the cinema, both happen simultaniously, both work (!?) and there is no interaction between!? …meh. One can’t possibly deny that it looks like Tarintino had two awesome ideas and just featured both.

    I must say I’m genereally quite surprised with the portrait of the roles. All the Nazis seem to be “just doing their (cruel) job”-people and the jew-americans are portraited as lunatics. And there is literally no fighting in this movie, just killing prisoners.

    The highight to me is definitely the bar table scene, which was very good, but given the name and the budged of Tarantino… It’s not a bad movie but I think there could have been better ideas.

    I liked the performances except for Brad Pitt. I think he was trying a bit too hard. The nasty hottie fits Kruger. As well as the naive hottie in Troy. Unfortunately B.J. Novak is Ryan from The Office to me and the other small Basterd is the ninja-kid from not another teen movie ^^
    I liked the girl, becaus you could really feel her anger and Daniel Brühl was handsome as allways.

  • Dave

    This is a horrible review. It is riddled with mistakes that honestly make you sound like a dumb shit. and you give away a major plot line with no warning of spoilers. You should not be allowed to publish anything, ever.

  • ryan

    The movie was fantastic.

    # Lagrange

    The scene where they stayed in the theater was great because they don’t care about dying. They were Jews and the people they were staying to kill had directly contributed to killing millions of Jews. They were strapped with the bombs, and were prepared to be suicide bombers. They never thought they were getting out alive.

    The violence they displayed in the theater was nothing compared to the violence they getting revenge for. Also those peole in the theater could not have been further from innocent and unarmed.

    I am not Jewish, but even so I could understand why they would feel the rage to get the extra few shots in and accept certain death. I think they accepted that when they joined the unit.

  • Madison

    I saw this last night (finally) and I liked it a lot. It’s very good. However, it’s not QT’s best since Pulp Fiction; both Kill Bills were better than this.

    I particularly liked the opening scene, which was both intense and gave us some classic QT monologue (hawks and rats). The theater scene at the end was great, too.

    Again, it was a real good movie, but it felt to disjointed and perhaps a bit too self-indulgent to be called “great.” I’m a huge Tarantino fan, so I was somewhat disappointed, I guess.

    Also, Walz was amazing. He’s got to get nominated. Pitt, however, was too over-the-top (which is saying a lot for a QT film), and stood as too much of a contrast to Hans Landa – and I don’t mean their characters. When they shared the screen, Walz gave me a living, breating, cunning Nazi officer, while Pitt gave me, well, Pitt hamming it up. I think Pitt’s role should have gone to someone else, someone a little less “cartoony.”

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  • Mark

    Just thought I’d say you hit the nail on the head with Christoph Waltz’s Best Supporting Actor Award. He won it at just about every award show available, and was nominated for the rest.

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