Inglourious Basterds Movie Review - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 2 hrs. 32 min.
  • Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth and Mike Myers
  • Written By: Quentin Tarantino
  • Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures, The Weinstein Company
  • Series:

Inglourious Basterds Movie Review

Inglourious Basterds: A Fairy Tale Bloodletting

By Rob Vaux     August 18, 2009


Inglourious Basterds
© Bob Trate

For the first thirty minutes or so, I thought Inglourious Basterds was going to be the best film of Quentin Tarantino's career. It opens with a pair of beautiful sequences, steeped in the pulp sensibilities of World War II movies but bearing Tarantino's one-of-a-kind seal that no third-tier filmmaker could possibly emulate. The first involves an SS officer (Christoph Waltz) interrogating a French farmer (Denis Menochet) about a family of missing Jews. Their exchange becomes a cocktail of deception, assumption and faux politeness--fascinating and chilling in equal measures--and yet as it continues, Tarantino inserts a series of hysterical asides that deflates convention even as the remainder of the scene asserts its supremacy.
 
Things continue in that vein as we segue to our ostensible heroes--an elite unit of Jewish-American soldiers called the "Basterds" sent in ahead of Normandy to kill Nazis in the most brutal manner possible. Their leader, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) strides along their ranks, grinning and growling in his thick Tennessee accent about the atrocities he expects them to commit. The dialogue is masterful, and like that of the previous scene, adroitly blends the humorous and the horrific into an irresistible package. Had Inglourious Basterds maintained that energy, it might have constituted a crowning achievement for its already celebrated auteur.
 
But then, bit by bit, some of the magic leeches out of it. Not a disastrous amount, and not enough to knock the film off its moorings, but it does drop the movie from masterpiece levels into the realm of a mere romp. Self-indulgence appears to be the primary culprit. As the Basterds establish their bloody reputation, they find themselves on a collision course with a hidden Jewish conspirator (Melanie Laurent), who runs a movie theater in Paris and receives an unparalleled opportunity to avenge her people upon the Nazi high command. Tarantino tosses a few extra elements on top of that--including a treacherous German actress (Diane Kruger), a Nazi war hero (Daniel Brühl), and a British commando (Michael Fassbender) who parachutes in to lend a hand.
 
The storyline weaves back and forth between them with the requisite level of flair, touching upon Tarantino's usual beloved themes--a love of cinema, an appreciation for the lurid, and a semantic playfulness which takes full advantage of the various languages on display. Despite the 40s setting, it takes its cues from 60s and 70s interpretations of WW II, further enriching the postmodern stew which the director labors so earnestly to create. The only problem is that he doesn't know when to quit. So enamored does he become of his (admittedly peerless) dialogue that he can't bear to cut any of it out. Consequently, certain scenes drag on interminably--bloated by unnecessary conversational flair--while others seem meant for no one but Tarantino himself. Sometimes less can be more, and what begins as a gleeful treat eventually deteriorates into a case of "get the hell on with it."
 
Those expecting tons of WWII action are apt to be disappointed as well. Gunfights appear with sudden, brutal finality--punctuated by plenty of gallows humor as usual--but they don't take up a great deal of screen time. Save for one glorious slaughterfest at the end, they serve either to advance the plot or expound upon some concept which Tarantino finds amusing. The good news is that they fit quite readily into the film's overall tone; they simply take a back seat to the copious verbal sparring.
 
And that in and of itself still constitutes a terrific good time. The elaborate structure gives Inglorious Basterds a great deal of forward momentum (something Tarantino's Grindhouse entry lacked), and even at its worst, the man's cinematic style remains wondrous and unique. Pitt reaffirms that his best work involves broad characters, while Waltz rapidly steals the show with his pleasant, conversational SS monster. The smart aleck-y riffs and in-joke winking have long since lost their novelty, but they still retain their share of joys, thanks to Tarantino's endless inventiveness and overwhelming love for his work. Effort still matters and originality is too damn scarce to lightly dismiss. Inglourious Basterds has plenty of both to spare, and while it may not be art, it's still fairly unforgettable.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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gauleyboy420 8/18/2009 2:41:55 PM

Rob gives it a B...That means it's an A

ActionMovieGod 8/18/2009 5:19:54 PM

Time t0 kill s0me nazi's fuck yes!

huskers97 8/18/2009 5:47:48 PM

I dont like rob for some strange reason...

jppintar326 8/18/2009 7:41:23 PM

I can't stand Quentin Tarantino.  The very sight of him makes me change the channel.  He talks too much and too long.  He is the equivalent to fingernails on the blackboard to me.  His movies reflect that.  The Kill Bill saga should have been called "Kill Bill Already."  It dragged on and on to the point in which I didn't care anymore by about halfway through Vol. 2.  "Death Proof" was simply boring ecept for Kurt Russell.   "Reservoir Dogs" and "Jackie Brown" I never saw so I can't comment on them.  As for "Pulp Fiction," I wtched it once and I have never been tempted to see it again.  Most overrated movie ever and I don't care what everybody else says..  I'm going to skip "Inglorious Bastards" and any future Tarantino movies.

WarCry 8/18/2009 11:11:41 PM

I can't stand any Tarantino film I've ever watched, and yet, I've watched them all. He has great concepts, great ideas, and it draws me in every time. "Well, I've been suckered before, but THIS one just looks too good to lose!" And yet, same result, every time

I'll likely rent this when it comes out (that's not a shot at the flick, BTW...I have a 7 yo and a wife, neither of who would be interested in this film, so no theatre-going). I'll likely get burned again, but I can't help it, like a moth to a flame.

One of these days, he might make something I like.

 

Oh, and before you try to change my mind, I've heard it all before. I tell some I don't like Tarantino, and all of a sudden they make it their goal in life to show me the 'error of my ways.' Unlike SOME folks talk about directors (Bay, Sommers), I don't think Tarantino should be banned from making movies, OK? They just aren't for me (though I keep trying!)

Xchampion 8/18/2009 11:31:47 PM

I'm going to see this movie this weekend because it looks awesome and not because its a Tarantino film and I can't wait.

hanso 8/19/2009 3:39:15 AM

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaht?  How can any human being not stand Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction?

Inglorious Basterds I'll end up seeing probably, but not Friday, excuse me, I mean not on Avatar Day.  I'm a bit disappointed cause the reviews I've read so far all say you don't spend as much time with the Basterds as one would hope since the film is called Inglorious Basterds.

 

jppintar326 8/19/2009 4:35:55 AM

Because there are some people who don't like Quentin Tarantino or his movies.  Everybody in this world is entitled to their opinion.  Just because a lot of critics say Quentin Tarantino is a great film maker does not make it true.  It is just their opinion, not a fact.

kwsupes 8/19/2009 5:11:06 AM

I will probably check this out once it hits DVD, I am in the same situation as Warcry I have a wife and a three month old daughter neither of them would sit through this movie. I like Tarrantino and have seen several of his movies. I certianly appreciate his filmmaking, some times he goes overboard, but I respect him. Pulp Fiction was a great movie and imminently quotable. I think after you make a movie like that it is hard to top. Of course I don't think he ever sets out to do that, I think he is now making movies he wants to see which as I said before is respectable.

shadowprime 8/19/2009 5:36:26 AM

 

My "problem" with Tarantino is his penchant for injecting a sadistic streak in every one of his movies. Not referring to the violence-level (generally very high, often to the point of silliness, as long as one doesn't have  a weak stomach!)  per se, but literally towards having to incude scenes of torture and sadism in nearly every one of his movies. Obviously, we all have different thresholds for these things, different tolerances...

For example, many of the commercials for INGLORIOUS show German soldiers, hands bound, being threatened with knives, bats, etc. I know, the premise is supposed to be that all German soldiers are utterly unsympathetic, but sorry... not interested in watching "our heroes" torture helpless prisoners. Bloody combat? Fine. An attack on the Nazi "high command"? Great. Torture? Not for me.

Just saying...

Shadow

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