Reviews

Inglourious Basterds

4

Tarantino plays war games…

Let’s talk title. Has Quentin Tarantino pushed his penchant for cine-homage to its logical conclusion and done a remake? Uh-uh.

His seventh film borrows – and Basterd-ises – its moniker from Enzo Castellari’s 1978 schlocker, but that’s it (OK, Castellari and original star Bo Svenson have cameos). It’s not the last time he bamboozles us, either. Knock on the head notions of a Dirty Dozen redux. Bullets are rationed. Explosions rare. Brad Pitt’s not in it much. None of the Basterds are.

Second scene in, Pitt’s Lt Aldo Raine gives his Jewish revenge-squad their orders: kill Nazis; 100 scalps per soldier. Then it’s 1944 and we’ve skipped years of chopping and lopping. It’s almost like a nod to Planet Terror’s infamous missing reel.

But this isn’t Grindhouse: Vol. 2. For those who found Death Proof self-indulgent, talky, crowded with film references and disconnected from reality, good news. Inglourious Basterds is self-indulgent, talky, crowded with film references and disconnected from reality… but much, much grander.

QT casts off those quickie, cheapie, throwaway vibes from the get-go. “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France,” reads the first chapter heading, kicking in an extended Sergio Leone riff. Get used to the leisurely pace – it doesn’t let up.

Deceptively placid countryside vistas yield to claustrophobia as SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) puts the mental thumbscrews on a farmer suspected of harbouring Jews. It’s clear Landa knows the truth long before it actually emerges, but he keeps on turning up the heat. Twenty minutes of squirming tension… and then horror erupts. It’s a killer opener – nervy but funny (wait for the pipe), unhurried but taut. It potently introduces one key character (Landa) and cooks up tragic motivation for another – brunette farmer’s daughter Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), running for her life as the episode ends.

It’s typical for Tarantino to shake up a stalled actor, to gift them a role reminding us why they used to be cool: John Travolta, Pam Grier, Kurt Russell, David Carradine. Here, in the movie’s spirit of subversion, he reverses tack and breaks out fresh stars.

You’d scarcely know it from the publicity, but Laurent is the film’s de facto protagonist, surfacing three years after her escape as the now-blonde, payback-plotting owner of a Parisian cinema. The French actress sinks conviction into her character’s quiet cunning and cool resolve; she’s the best dye-job WW2 heroine since Black Book’s Carice van Houten. Sucks ciggies like a classic femme fatale, too.

Really, though, the headline story is Waltz – even the huffiest critics at this year’s Cannes didn’t begrudge him his Best Actor win. The picture’s his from that opening grilling; he follows through with further delicious displays of cruelty, charm and shameless self-interest – and in a variety of languages, no less. He’s a rival to Jules as QT’s greatest bad boy. Just pray Hollywood doesn’t turn the Austrian thesp into a vanilla villain, hissing threats to Bruce Willis down a walkie-talkie…

Waltz keeps the campery in check, but there are overcooked caricatures elsewhere. Martin Wuttke’s hysterical Hitler is more Chaplin than chilling. Mike Myers misjudges his tally-ho British general. Pitt is a cartoon Clark Gable. Is he spoofing his own megawattage? Maybe, but the mannerisms – jutting chin, Southern drawl – labour the laughs. He has some meaty speeches, yet his scant screentime isn’t a huge regret.

Some will cavil more over the lack of action; although when it comes, it’s a kick – notably a bar shoot out (sudden, rapid carnage after a marathon dialogue session) that freezes on – what else? – a Mexican stand-off. Other Tarantino trademarks are alive and well too: an eclectic, electric soundtrack made from other soundtracks (The Alamo, Cat People, Ennio Morricone) and a spot of footfetishism, played sexy and sinister.

But the most pressing question is: does Eli Roth ruin it? Luckily, Pitt’s right-hand Basterd isn’t given enough rope to hang himself. The Hostel man is even a bit of a hoot come the cinema-set climax, where the many threads are gathered for a fiery final reckoning.

By now you’ll be aware that the resolution is pure pulp fiction. But if the historical liberties outrage or offend, just keep telling yourself: it’s only a movie-movie. One that’s big, brash and unpredictable, enriched by QT’s love of actors, love of language and love of cinema: its power to influence, illuminate, exhilarate. Inglourious Basterds builds a world, shakes up a genre, plays by its own rules.

Not convinced? Then ask yourself which you’d prefer: to slog through the by-the-history-book reverence and respectability of Defiance and Valkyrie, or to see Mélanie Laurent dressed in red, wreathed in smoke, backed perversely yet perfectly by David Bowie’s ‘Putting Out The Fire’? Thought so…

Verdict:

“This ain’t your daddy’s WW2 flick,” reckons Tarantino. Too right: this exploitation epic is a unique beast that molests history, wrong-foots expectations and royally entertains. The movies’ coolest Basterd is back on his game.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • xtincol

      Aug 4th 2009, 22:05

      Has Tarantino reined in his ludicrous dialogue though? I suspect not. Death Proof was ruined because of it and ended up a staccato film that threatened to get going, but ultimately stalled badly. Unfair perhaps, but Tarantino's dialogue now leans heavily toward things he wants to hear, rather than allowing his characters to breathe and develop their own personality. I've not seen it so forgive my cynicism, but 4 stars is pretty much de riguer for a Tarantino film, whether a reviewer likes it or not. However, I will wait to be proved wrong. Here's hoping.

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    • StuntmanSam

      Aug 21st 2009, 6:11

      5

      Brilliant. Witty dialogue, outstanding acting (Waltz in particular), great action and, despite what you may hear, a fantastically epic ending. Tarantino shows his uncanny ability to create almost unbearably tense scenes. One complaint that i have noticed is that it is too long at 2 and a half hours, however i didn't notice, each scene is as involving as the last. A must see 4.5/5

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    • ebyandsmartie

      Aug 21st 2009, 16:56

      2

      Christoph Waltz steals the movie. Eli Roth tries to kill it. Pitt is too over the top. Mike Myers is Carry On camp. The French farmhouse is so good, it should be viewed away from the rest of the story. If Tarantino wanted to end the story the way he has, then there should at least been some reference to the hundreds of thousands who REALLY died in The Battle of Normandy and not run around slapping yourselves on the back that yet again the Yanks won the war single handed.

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    • Ali1748

      Aug 27th 2009, 19:24

      5

      Loved every minute of it. and yes the Jew Hunter steals the film Waltz is fantastic.

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    • captainchod

      Aug 28th 2009, 9:46

      4

      Waltz is evey bit as good as everyone is saying. Very funny throughout, but it's the scenes of tension that worked the best.

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    • Marshall85

      Sep 3rd 2009, 11:36

      1

      This was awful, Could have been fairly average book, Not enough flash backs, Didnt show enough insight into nazi killing team or different ways they finished Nazi's, Was just all chit chat dribble, I liked chapter one but rest I wished to be extra from one flew over cuckoo's nest then maybe Id have point of view of people ranting this is amazing, Obviously QT wants to fill a quote book one day, Film was Rubbish...End of! Stop having wet dreams over it just because its a QT film, He hast done a good film since Death Proof, He isnt going to google his own film reviews and become your BFF because your singing his praises, I'm not the only person that thinks this way, The amount of people that walked out or just started voicing everyones else opinions at screen is only reason this is getting a one star, I actually heard someone say they'd have went to watch G Force instead, You have been warned

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    • StuntmanSam

      Sep 4th 2009, 7:39

      Uhhh Marshall.. Firstly if you just wanted to see Nazi's being killed, then yes, you are watching the wrong film. And you are absolutely entitled to your own opinion but please don't talk about things if you don't actually know what you are talking about.. "He hast done a good film since Death Proof". This is the first film he has directed since Death Proof. And talk about double standards, you don't like all the talking? Death Proof was mainly that. Next time you do a review how about you make it a good one, rather than just deliberately going against what other people are saying

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    • Marshall85

      Sep 4th 2009, 9:36

      This film just brings out the worst in me I guess....Or I saw another film from everyone else.....I had a few typos in my last comment I meant to basically say along the lines that death proof was horrible and that should be a point of reference for anyone going to see this.....But hey im not aware of what Im talking about.......If anyone has trouble sleeping please go see this film.......

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    • namedropper

      Sep 5th 2009, 1:57

      2

      I saw this movie last weekend and my first impression at the end was "My god that was a complete shambles". Characters were introduced at length and then underused before being killed off. There was a shabby plot, shabby narrative and with some terrible acting to offshoot the good acting. Laurent and Waltz are excellent. I actually thought Pitt was pretty good. Roth was p**s poor. Myers was poor but not sure why that was pointed out so much when it all got silly later on when it came to a part with Italian accents. The cellar scene went on for what seemed an age. There is much to admire about this. It seemed to me that much of the acting was considerably better than the movie itself. And Rod Taylor should sue. Guy was completely wasted as Churchill. I'm sure someone will tell me that it's actually a great piece of work and yes there is much to admire (the beginning which is a take on the start of The Good The Bad and the Ugly had some of the best tension I've seen in a movie for years) and the ending is pretty impressive (cue the homage to Raiders of the lost Ark) but overall it made me wish it really had been a remake of decent war movies. Make a movie along the lines of The Guns of Navarone or Where Eagles Dare or Kelly's Heroes. Not some tosh that was rubbish in the first place.

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    • FastestMilkman

      Sep 14th 2009, 21:46

      1

      I usually enjoy Tarantino films but this was dreadful. It was no more than a smug, self-indulgent big-budget 18cert remake of a s**te episode of 'Allo 'Allo.

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    • casinoheat

      Sep 20th 2009, 17:35

      5

      I loved this film. Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender were awesome. Tarantino's back on form.

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    • totalmilf

      Sep 27th 2009, 22:06

      4

      This film has obviously torn people into the 'love it' or 'hate it' extreme polar opposites... I for one really enjoyed this movie, the tension scenes really were great, especially the opening scene. But I didn't expect it to be much more than popcorn entertainment (if you see the ending you'll know what I mean), and I with that expectation I was not disappointed. All in all, it didn't feel like the length it was, it was funny and entertaining, and I would definitely recommend Inglorious Basterds if you're a fan of Tarantino. ;)

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    • thegoddamthing

      Oct 11th 2009, 0:01

      Quentin Tarantino is a modern day legend that is fact; no film maker even comes close to the sheer class of craft the man possesses. In my humble opinion, not since the days of Spielberg and Cameron has a film maker changed cinema in the same way that Tarantino has done. Each film is a social and pop culture phenomenon whether it be Mr Blonde dancing maniacally as he tortures a young police officer, Jules Winfield slurping down a Sprite or the stunning soundtrack of Kill Bill. There will always be something about a Tarantino film that keeps cinemas filmed. With that, we arrive at Tarantino’s latest offering, a remake of the 1978 Enzo Castellari film Inglorious Basterds. Remake? No way, Quentin Tarantino does make remakes, re-hashes or re-in visioning, he makes Quentin Tarantino films. This one is no exception. Tarantino amounts of violence - check, witty banter - check, character acting - check, stunning soundtrack - check. However, with all the positives Tarantino brings you, you do have the negative and that in this case is the seemingly endless ocean of needless dialogue. In Tarantino’s seminal masterwork “Pulp Fiction” the dialogue is scenario based i.e. they discuss things to pass the time as they travel somewhere or as they wait for their breakfast orders. This time around Tarantino seems to have based the scenario around the dialogue and to me though it works in a roundabout way, it makes the scenes long and laborious. The odd scene here and there would be acceptable but it is almost every scene, we sit and watch as line after line of dialogue chews into the runtime. As someone who is often told that I talk far too much I can hardly gripe, but I just feel that the amount of drawn out dialogue slows the film down almost to the point where you become tired and that is not good when you are watching something that should flow smoothly. That aside though, Inglourious Basterds as you would expect is a sublimely crafted film, directed by one of THE most competent and inspirational directors out there. Unsettling scenes of graphic violence remind you this is a Tarantino film and as your female companion turns away from the flowing blood on the screen you know you are watching a master at work. Not all the praise can go to Tarantino though, the fact he has enlisted some of the finest actors in cinema for key roles helps in no uncertain terms. Brad Pitt is wonderful as the chisel jawed all American Lt Aldo Raine a role that you see from every scene he is enjoying so much. Little known Melanie Laurent provides innocent beauty as Shoshanna Dreyfus, but acting wise, the film belongs to Christopher Waltz, the “Jew Hunter” and all around creepy-b*****d-face-of-evil-type German Army officer. In Waltz, Tarantino has a character actor to end all character actors, his mannerisms, his voice and his facial expressions are all sublime as he and Brad Pit exchange scenes to carry the film along through difficult dialogue and shall we say, less exciting scenes, like a convicts loving other half you know that they are never far away and they are the two reasons you persevere through the slower less involving moments of the film. To sum on then, Inglourious Basterds is a classic Tarantino film but it is a flawed Tarantino film, the endless dialogue cannot be forgiven. Hopefully as all Tarantino films do, things will improve with further viewings but for now this is a superbly crafted take on a story only Tarantino could breathe life into. Well worth seeing and persevering through and though massively frustrating at times it can be forgiven due to the sheer superlatives of its direction and its two leading men. Hopefully this can be seen as an attempt for Tarantino to return to the spectacular form that brought us Pulp Fiction, thought Inglourious Basterds is hard work, it gets you there in the end.

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    • thegoddamthing

      Oct 11th 2009, 0:02

      3

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    • bagapath

      Nov 5th 2009, 6:20

      5

      I haven't obviously seen all the movies ever made in the 100+ years of entire film history. So it would be preposterous to call IB the greatest movie ever made. But I think it is well within my rights to call it the greatest movie I have ever seen. So, take a bow Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Seven Samurai, 8 1/2, Raging Bull, Virgin Spring, Annie Hall, Sunset Boulevard, Schindler's List and North by North West. Tarantino has just made a film that is better than all of you!

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    • jacoblost48

      Nov 28th 2009, 18:32

      5

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    • Bloomy

      Dec 6th 2009, 15:41

      5

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    • Jkaltz11

      Jan 2nd 2010, 14:56

      5

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    • teofilagwen

      Feb 17th 2010, 1:37

      Watch this movie for free if you are short on money at http://WatchFullMovieNow.com But if you have money then go to the theaters and support the movies. Pretty dam good movie, everything Tarantino touch turns into gold :D

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    • teofilagwen

      Feb 17th 2010, 1:38

      5

      Watch this movie for free if you are short on money at http://WatchFullMovieNow.com But if you have money then go to the theaters and support the movies. Pretty dam good movie, everything Tarantino touch turns into gold :D

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    • jasminaz02

      Jun 14th 2010, 13:26

      5

      Best film on the year in my opinion

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