If Bryan Singer's underrated 'Valkirye' was a vintage decanter of smooth, sweet Vermouth on the rocks, then 'Inglorious Bastards' is Cabernet Sauvignon in a Riedel Overture glass, spiked with ten sachets of Vodka lemon alchopop. But since I don't drink; the aforementioned comparisons are based entirely on conjecture, speaking of guesswork, there's a fair bit of it involved in Quentin Tarantino's latest, including, among others; the question: What was he thinking? Q's long gestating, 'Dirty Dozen'-esque WWII opus has been in the pipeline for over a decade now; but was it worth the wait? Yes and No. Set in Nazi occupied France and broken down into chapters, 'Inglorious Basterds' features a three-pronged narrative; one story focuses on our titular heroes: an American Jewish guerrilla army (or "terrorists" as the Reich calls them) operating behind enemy lines and led by smirking Southerner Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt). Another tells the tale of Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) a French Jewess who narrowly escaped the ethnic cleansing of her family by Nazi troops; led by the loquacious, Dr Moriarty-esque Col. Hans Lander (Christoph Waltz) both of which conclude with the serendipitous culmination of Shosanna and the allies plan to assassinate top Nazis during a movie premiere of Goebbels latatest propaganda piece: 'Nation's Pride'. Now as a lifelong Tarantino fan, I expect a standard above and beyond the rank and file hacks who populate that creatively stagnant hive we call Hollywood; and whilst no one expects the manic auteur to better 'Pulp Fiction', all hope that he'll go onto direct something on a par with 'Reservoir Dogs' or even 'Jackie Brown' in the near future; for 'Inglorious Bastards', interesting though it may be, doesn't quite cut it. That said, one can't ignore some noteworthy artistic choices such as putting German and allied combatants on the same level in terms of their brutality and ruthless professionalism or the plot to burn down the cinema on "Nazi night" as Shosanna describes it, which alludes to an Old Testament verse about Jeru gathering idolaters into the temple before setting it ablaze. And whilst I hated some of the comical asides (e.g. pantomime Hitler) I laughed out loud at others (e.g. Pitt's team trying to pass for Italians and Lander's off the wall interrogations).
Quentin Tarantino's comic phase began in 2003 with 'Kill Bill' (highly enjoyable fluff) continued with Grindhouse experiment 'Death Proof' (watchable, not great) and a guest spot on 'Sin City' (superb film, though directorial collaborations tend to any blur any individual efforts). Strangely enough, Tarantino's most true to form work in recent years hasn't been in film at all, but on TV; in his excellent 'CSI' double bill: 'Grave Danger'. Now Quentin used to have an acute awareness of less being more, but here; scenes that could've been quick and effective are prolonged in an operatic manner with slo-mo and grandiose score (most of which is borrowed from other films and proves quite distracting). The fact that neither devices are used to illicit irony, suggests that the feted auteur may be getting a bit slack in his dotage. Narrative coherence, never a problem for Tarantino before, also comes into question with a surprising oversight: Hugo Stigliz (Til Schweiger) is a Nazi conscript turned notorious Nazi killer who assassinated 13 SS officers and was busted out of prison by the Basterds, and yet no one, including Nazi top brass, seems to recognise him in the bar basement scene! Speaking of the bar scene, it is, despite the aforementioned error, the film's strongest chapter and though it runs for an absurdly long 25 minutes, is never boring and boasts an excellent, intentionally stilted, performance by Michael Fassbender as British spy and erstwhile film critic Lt. Archie Hicox. This brilliantly conceived and directed scene manages to encapsulate all the drama, dark humour, suspense and violence one could hope for in a Tarantino movie. The bar scene is almost like a short film in itself and, if nothing else, is a mini master-class in how to create tension on screen.
Now if one had to choose; I'd say Enzo G. Castellari's correctly spelt and unpretentious B-movie 'Inglorious Bastards' (1977) is much more entertaining than Tarantino's flick, though in all fairness, the most the two films have in common are the title and time period. Personally, I think Tarantino could've made a better movie by not showing the Basterds at all, focusing instead on Fassbender, Waltz and the Nazi sniper depicted in the film within the film; 'Nation's Pride'. Keeping the circumcised death squad a mystery; known only by their grisly deeds like the alien in 'Predator' or the creature in 'The Keep', would've lent the movie an air of peril and sobriety. Instead, what we have here is a spluttering, if compulsively watchable, work of half measures and small victories; it's ironic twist on Shoah mentality is commendably original and visually impressive though overall; the film only hints at angles already addressed in expert fashion by Sam Peckinpah 33 years ago in 'Cross Of Iron'. Ultimately, it's a hit and miss affair; unique? Certainly but it takes as much as it gives, is often flat and severely lacking in any repeat viewing potential. There's a scene in which Aldo Raines, having carved a Swastika into the forehead of another hapless victim with his Apache hunting knife, moves back, cocks his head to one side and triumphantly declares: "I think this may be my masterpiece", for Tarantino's sake; I certainly hope 'Inglorious Basterds', isn't his.
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Quentin Tarantino's long-gestating, and much anticipated, World War II film is sure to delight fans of his artful touch with dialogue and visuals. Inspired by Enzo G. Castellari's Italian war epic, INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, Tarantino's film is a remake in name only and concerns the resistance against Nazi forces in occupied France. Brad Pitt leads a strong ensemble that includes Diane Kruger (TROY), Michael Fassbender (HUNGER) and filmmaker Eli Roth (director of HOSTEL).
Quentin Tarantino directs this ensemble action drama set in Europe during World War Two. In the first of two converging storylines, Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), a young Jewish woman in occupied France, seeks to avenge the death of her parents by the Nazis after narrowly escaping execution herself and fleeing to Paris. There she creates a new identity for herself as the owner and manager of a cinema. Meanwhile, a group of Jewish American soldiers known as 'The Basterds', led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), joins forces with German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. The Basterds cross paths with Shosanna when her cinema, which has been commandeered by the Nazis for the screening of their latest propaganda film, becomes the target for their next attack. However, unbeknown to them, Shosanna has devised a revenge plan of her own. Christoph Waltz gained the Best Supporting Actor Awards at both the 2010 BAFTAs and Academy Awards for his portrayal of the devious Colonel Hans Landa.