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Inglourious Basterds

Studio: The Weinstein Company
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino; Starring Brad Pitt, Christopher Waltz, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, B.J. Novak, Mike Meyers, Mélanie Laurent, and Michael Fassbender

Aug 21, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Quentin Tarantino never met a genre he didn’t like, and nearly every movie he’s made thus far has been his own reworking of that specific style of film, whether it’s Reservoir Dogs’ heist film, Jackie Brown‘s blaxploitation or Death Proof‘s car chase movie. So in that spirit, it’s best to think of Inglourious Basterds as his foreign-language WWII Spaghetti Western.

Finally seeing release after a decade in development, Basterds is a pastiche of those sprawling, cast-of-thousands ‘60s and ‘70s WWII moviesmost notably The Dirty Dozen, but with elements of A Bridge Too Far, The Great Escape and Patton thrown in for good measurebut with one fairly critical difference: this time the Jews win.

Brad Pitt gets top billing as Lt. Aldo Raine, the Tennessee-born leader of a band of Jewish American G.I.s charged with killing and scalping Nazis. It’s a different directon for Pitt, who wears a smirk for most of the film and provides much of the humorhe’s chewing scenery left and right, but it’s one of his most unique performances. Close at hand is Hostel director Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitzaka “The Bear Jew”a member of the Basterds who gets his kicks by beating Nazis to death with a baseball bat.

But the real star here is Christopher Waltz as Nazi commander Col. Hans Landa. Despite a career spanning more than 30 years, Waltz is almost entirely unknown in the U.S., though he steals the show from his better-known co-stars. Also worth noting is Mélanie Laurent, as Shoshanna Dreyfus, hiding in Paris as the only member of her family to survive a Nazi execution, and hell-bent on taking down Landa. Laurent is a capable actress, but her best work comes when she’s just sitting still and letting her eyes do the talking. Mike Myers even makes an appearance as an English general, doing his best work in a decade in just one scene. Astute viewers will keep their ears pealed for a pair of off-screen voice cameos by two Tarantino favorites (though to name them here would spoil the surprise).

The basic mechanics of the plot - aside from killing Nazisinvolve a film premiere which Hitler may or may not attend, and how the Basterds worm their way inside.

Even by Tarantino standards it’s all outlandishly violent and cartoonish, but that’s the point. It’s the antithesis of films like Defiance or even Valkyrieand besides, if you’re going for graphic violence, surely if there’s one instance it’s excusable it’s in the service of killing Nazis, right?

The dialogue, though not up to the level of some of his previous films, still crackles despite the historic setting and multiple languages, although “Say auf wiedersehn to your Nazi balls” surely ranks high in the pantheon of quotable Tarantino lines.

If there’s a major fault to be found here it’s that even six films into his career, Tarantino still hasn’t learned the art of pacing, and the film could easily shave half an hour and be all the better for it. In many ways Basterds most closely resembles Jackie Brown; both films move at a snail’s pace (though the payoff here is generally worth the wait) and in both cases Tarantino has attempted to distill a genre that spans countless films down into one, rather than cherry-picking the best bits for inclusion (as he did with kung fu films in Kill Bill).

Throughout much of the film there’s little narrative cohesion, and things don’t really begin to come together until the final hour. As such, it often winds up seeming like a bunch of things Tarantino wanted to put in a movienot always a bad thingrather than a straight A-to-B storyline. Again, something a few nips and tucks would’ve solved.

If a Quentin Tarantino movie is about anything, it’s about how much he loves movies. And that’s half the funthat strange combination of elements pulled from disparate influences colliding, as though Christmas, Halloween and the Fourth of July all got together to make a movie. In the future he’ll surely move into other genres; maybe horror or noir, or perhaps even a screwball comedy. Let’s see how many times he can cram the F-word into a screwball comedy. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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mono symptoms
December 14th 2009

I dont like this movie, Tarantino’s getting worse…