What does one say about a chapter-pieced, mostly francophone and germanic spoken, dialogue heavy, bloodletting, Bowie-graced film called Inglourious Basterds? Well I’m not quite sure what any one random subjective observer would say, but I know that I would call it; spastic, fracturing and above all else, fucking brilliant.
You go into any Quentin Tarantino movie expecting a loquacious barrage of dialogue centered around seemingly inane subject matter while being simultaneously enraptured by its aptness. Tarantino has an almost methodical, some could call torturous, mode of filmmaking that plays to his own (and subsequently the audience’s) inner auteur. He unwinds a story such as Inglourious Basterds through genuine storytelling; teasing out a plot that from small snippets of trailer material is virtually unrecognizable. The opening scene is perhaps one of the best examples of this in Basterds and perhaps in any other Tarantino film to date, save for the multiple Jules/Vincent scenes in Pulp Fiction. But, he goes beyond that even in Basterds, drawing out the scene for what seems like an eternity. Unlike most other movies, however, no time is callously wasted on meaningless banter and each frame plays an integral role in setting up the climax of the chapter and also serving as an important catalyst for the movie.
As also with every Tarantino movie, however, the characters are the centerpieces of the movie and it is through them that the most entertainment is attained. Of specific note are the three main yet oppositional characters in Inglourious Basterds; Brad Pitt who plays Lieutenant Aldo “The Apache” Raine, Mélanie Laurent who plays Shosanna Dreyfus, and Christopher Waltz who plays Colonel Hans Landa. Each demonstrates an alternative viewpoint to the overarching plot as well as filling pivotal roles in terms of character brilliance.
We are first introduced to Landa as an incredibly perceptive and ruthless individual, a characterization that makes him right at home in the Nazi elite. He is so much more than that, however, and though he exhibits brutal efficiency in his job as a “Detective” finding missing Jews to exterminate, he also demonstrates another side. Tarantino crafts him foremost as a pompous man of knowledge and his insertion into the nazi ranks could easily be supplanted into an alternative role with ease. As such, all of the primary nazi roles outside of Landa (the prominent historical figures: Hitler, Goebbels etc.) are made mentally insufficient or downright insane, perhaps rightfully so. Landa, however, is so much more than his uniform which makes him such a defining character in the movie and also one we learn to hate so very much.
In direct opposition to Landa, out of sheer revenge, is Shosanna Drefus’s character portrayed magnificently by Laurent and perhaps exhibiting the best acting out of the three (by no means a small feat). A runaway Jew, under a gentile’s assumed identity in France we see a perfect plot for revenge against both the nazi high command and Landa practically fall into her hands. Her handling of both war hero Private Federick Zoller and Colonel Landa demonstrate her own self control to exact punishment on the whole of the nazi elite. It is through her that we see probably the most badass exhibition of Jewish retaliation in cinema history.
Rounding out the three is Brad Pitt’s character Lt. Aldo Raine who outside of Landa’s ridiculous outbursts if probably the movie’s funniest character. His appalachian demeanor and ridiculous inadequacies outside of military strategy and brute force are incredibly over the top, most likely part of Tarantino’s homage to classic WWII movies and spaghetti westerns the likes of which are littered throughout Basterds. One particular scene of interest (without going into too much detail) has Brad Pitt and two basterds “disguised” as Italian filmmakers, providing such a weak performance in this disguise that you can see the pained expression in Raine’s face, welcoming failure if only for its escape.
Clearly Tarantino has crafted another masterpiece, the likes of which have not been seen by him in some time. Though outside of his traditional comfort zone, embodying a period WWII piece something he has not done before, he provides the kind of experience one would expect from one of his films; over-the-top violence, brilliant dialogue, badass female leads and his own brand of continuity.
A note: I will be switching my rating system from a classical star review system to an out of ten points system.