Inglorious Basterds * * * *
Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, Julie Dreyfus, Bo Svenson, Rod Taylor, Mike Myers.
Quentin Tarantino’s long awaited crack at World War II is a sumptuous and ambitious film. Yes, he rewrites history but he rewrites it with such audacity and injects it with such fun that it’s hard to resist his flamboyant take on it.
Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) has a reputation during the war and throughout France that has earned him the unofficial title “The Jew Hunter” deriving from his ruthless eradication and extermination. Meanwhile, the allies have their very own ruthless “Nazi killing” appointee in Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt) who has assembled a team of killers known as “The Basterds” and who’s mission is to brutally kill and deliver “Nazi scalps”. Both men find themselves closing in on each other through the news that there is to be a German propaganda film to show at a local French cinema run by Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young lady who’s family were killed at the hands of Col. Landa and who also has a plot of her own in place.
Tarantino’s characters all intertwine with his usual visual flair and ear for wonderful dialogue. Yet again, he has crafted a film to lose yourself in and enjoy the interaction of his brilliantly written characters. Pitt is gleefully entertaining and Waltz thoroughly deserved his Oscar win. Til Schweiger is also a standout as the former German soldier Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, who takes great enjoyment from killing his own countrymen and as much as Eli Roth’s acting is disasterous, his character Sgt. Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz is wonderful and all this is done with welcome narration by Samuel L. Jackson. The film mainly consists of just a handful of scenes – or chapters – which are actually quite long and dialogue oriented but all done masterfully. Particularly the Sergio Leone-esque opening scene, “Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France…”, complete with Ennio Morricone style music and the unbelievably tense basement bar scene where Michael Fassbender’s British Lt. Archie Hicox is exposed as a German imposter. These two scenes in particular are some of Tarantino’s finest work and the intoduction of “The Bear Jew” who likes to bash German soldiers with a baseball bat is classic Quentin. Where Tarantino falters though, is in the final act, where the film descends more into humour and becomes slightly rediculous and unconvincing. It’s fabulously done and thoroughly entertaining but the tone is different from what went before and each character becomes more of a caricature, leaving the film with an uncertain conclusion.
A welcome change of direction for Tarantino, while still retaining his idiosyncratic style. I await his next venture with even more anticipation.