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.
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.
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
The last thing you Nazi scum will ever see.