As you may already know, Inglourious Basterds is my favorite film, ever. So for Quentin Tarantino’s 50th birthday I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to write a review of it for Mr Rumsey’s Film Related Musings (you should check it out, as Lt Aldo Raine would say, ‘damn good stuff’) as he was doing a blog-athon/celebration of Mr Tarantino. Long story short, here is my attempt to justify exactly why I adore the film so much. Huge thank you to Mr Rumsey for letting me write this review; any chance to talk about Inglourious Basterds, I will snap it up.
You think that by now we would be completely used to Tarantino’s trick of drastically surprising the audience.. After all, this is the man who made a drug-overdose scene romantic (‘Pulp Fiction’). But after the first scene in ‘Inglourious Basterds’, it is clear that we are wrong. ‘Inglourious Basterds’ has proven that Tarantino hasn’t passed his ‘sweet spot’ and he can still make damn good films, whilst giving us the shock factor that Tarantino lovers, and any film lovers for that matter, thrive off. The film has probably the most satisfying endings in the whole of cinema, entwined in one of the most satisfying films in the whole of cinema.
So the plot? In 1944, Nazi-occupied France is being stormed by Lt. Aldo Raine’s (Brad Pitt) Basterds, a vengeful group of Jewish soldiers, prepared to take down any Nazi they lay their hands on, taking no prisoners. They dream big and plan on taking down the whole of the Nazi high command in a propaganda film premier, meanwhile the owner, a vindictive Jew, whose parents were killed directly by the high command, has similar plans of her own.
Throughout the film you can tell Tarantino is holding up a middle finger to conventional film makers, and stereotypes, showing you can break the boundaries whilst making a heavily serious yet completely enjoyable film. But my god is it fun, the whole ‘what-if’ thing that Tarantino has sculpted is fantastic and stirring. The film starts on a high and sure does end on a high (not necessarily positive beginnings or endings, but entertaining and captivating). The film is both deliciously slow and upbeat and fast paced.
Tarantino is an exceptional writer, and he produces fantastic screenplays that just make your eyes water, and ‘Inglourious Basterds’ does not fall short writing wise. Tarantino just loves the sound of his characters voices, with scenes dense with conversation; in fact, in some scenes it wouldn’t make a huge difference it was stripped of its visuals, and this is what is so glorious about it. You would assume that a film dense with subtitles and mixed European languages would distract the audience, or even repel them, but if anything, it makes the absurd story-line actually feel real.
Take the bar scene for example. The scene involves a British officer undercover, two members of the Basterds and a double agent who is a German movie star, all trying to outwit a Gestapo officer who is cautious about the guest’s origins. This scene is probably the most tense I have felt in a while, the kind of scene that you are uncomfortably shuffling in your seat, waiting for the climax. The beauty of these scenes in the film is not the tension, not the suspense, but the implications and hints that cause this. Tarantino is subtle, and that is what makes him, and this film, so brilliant.
The film is saturated with witty one-liners from Aldo Raine, and a lot of the cast actually, giving the heavy film a comedy relief, and that doesn’t strip anything away from the film. Some of the funniest moments are when the Kentucky born and bred Aldo Raine, tries to speak Italian, without being suspected as an impostor. The thick accent, that may require subtitles anyway, peers through and does not disguise his southern routes, and his attempt is hilarious.
However, the real talent is shown through the character of Hans Landa. Be it Jew Hunter or Bounty Hunter, whatever role Tarantino gives Christoph Waltz, he really thrives. Deemed ‘unplayable’ by the director himself, Christoph Waltz proved him wrong. This man deserved every single award that he was nominated for. As Tarantino said ‘I think that Landa is one of the best characters I’ve ever written and ever will write, and Christoph played it to a tee… It’s true that if I couldn’t have found someone as good as Christoph I might not have made Inglourious Basterds” and I could not agree more, I feel that ‘Inglourious Basterds’ just wouldn’t feel the same without Mr Waltz; even rumours that Leonardo DiCaprio was due the role did not stir me, Waltz was by far the best decision of the film. Not only is the part of Hans Landa multilingual, it is also an incredible and complex mixture of hero and villain. Landa is charming, despicable and contradictory. He is so two-faced that it would put any chick-flick to shame. Most of the best moments and lines are all down to Hans Landa. In fact, he is one of the best villains that I have ever come across in cinema, yes, beating the Bond villains. As the film gets deeper and deeper the comedic value gets higher and higher.
You have never had so much fun watching a war movie, and you have never had so much fun watching a cinema full of people burn down. This is a typical over the top Tarantino film, and this definitely isn’t a bad thing! I am aware that Tarantino films aren’t to everyone’s taste (despite the displeasure this gives me), but I haven’t been as entertained by an film in a long while, and I am not expecting to for a long while. In a way, I sort of wish I hadn’t seen ‘Inglourious Basterds’ as it has now become a comparison for most films I watch. Hats off to you, Tarantino, my movie God. And Waltz, continue to shine. To sum it up for Tarantino, I will borrow Aldo Raine’s line ‘This might just be my (your) masterpiece’
I will now go and polish my 5 copies of ‘Inglourious Basterds’.