Saturday, August 22, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (2009)


Tarantino's long talked about, greatly anticipated INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS has arrived. The world war 2 exploitation styled film which shares its name (sans spelling) with Enzo Castellari's film from 1978 (which happens to be one of QT's favorite movies) is everything I hoped for, and more than what I expected.

Set in German occupied France, we are quickly introduced to SS officer Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz in a brilliant performance) who is known across the region as "The Jew Hunter", and it doesn't take long to see why. The opening chapter of the 5 we will see, which is heavily reminiscent of the great spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, quickly shows off Landa's talents of being a despicable, disgusting villain who doesn't give you any choice to love him at the same time. His methodical web-weaving and overall charm leave you feeling conflicted towards him. The entire chapter takes place on the LaPadite's dairy farm where Landa is interrogating the father to gather information on the location of a Jewish family that is unaccounted for. The entire chapter is packed with tension and suspense until the slow-burn concludes in breathtaking fashion that Sergio Leone would be proud of.

In chapter 2 we meet the Basterds. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), the special group consists of 8 other Jewish soldiers who have been dropped behind enemy lines to strike fear through the hearts of the Nazis. They strike the chord they were looking for as throughout the movie we see examples of their handiwork taking effect as the locals and SS are terrified of seeing scalped Nazi soldiers and survivors with swastikas carved into the foreheads. This is where we see much of what the trailers and TV spots showed us. The Bear Jew, Donny Donowitz (played very well by Eli Roth) is possibly the most interesting of the Basterds. His preferred weapon is a baseball bat, and we see him use it quite graphically and extensively and then give us post-Nazi smashing commentary as if Ted Williams had just hit a home run out of Fenway Park and on to Landsdown Street. This is possibly the most lively of the segments, and certainly the one that got the most crowd reaction.

From here on out it becomes a twisting, winding road toward the finale. Tarantino finally realizes his sheer genius with writing at this point. The story never stalls, the dialogue is never wasted and is constantly tense and working for a payoff.The Basterds come in contact with double agents, to bring down the Nazi high command at a film premiere that they will all be in attendance at including The Fuhrer.

Within the 151 minute run time, Quentin Tarantino showcases every bit of his talent. His direction is solid, his writing is crisp as always and never unnecessary. Every word of dialogue, every bit of story is used to build tension and aid the plot. And you never feel like you are sitting in a 2.5 hour movie. It was an absolute pleasure to see this film play out, and no review will do it complete justice. There are many nuanced roles that will never get the attention they deserve without going into pages of detail and giving away tons of spoilers. The various winks and nudges to QT's inspirations are fun to try to pick out including names of characters to the names of chapters and even a cameo from Enzo Castellari.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is violent, intense and gorgeous. It will leave you conflicted on feelings towards certain situations and individuals. Most importantly it is Quentin Tarantino finally reaching his potential as a writer and director to make a truly great film, that doesn't waste a single minute. It will be hard to top this one for 2009.


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