Archive for the ‘War’ Category

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

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One of the many things that people are pondering about Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (and believe me, this is one of the most talked and pondered about films in a long time) is the unusual spelling of the title. Of course, the misspelled “Basterd” you probably notice right away, but Tarantino, that sly dog, has also added a “u” to “inglorious.” Why would I begin my review with talk of spelling errors? Simple, the title holds a key about the film as a whole. For me, the misspelling is Tarantino’s way of saying: Listen, this is not business as usual, this is not your generic World War II film. As is true of his other films, Tarantino takes a genre and bends, breaks, tweaks and tinkers it until it’s uniquely his. In other words, all bets are off.

There are certain directors whose films simply cannot be seen just once; the films of Quentin Tarantino definitely belong in this group. I have seen this film twice, and look forward to seeing it for a third time. If Inglourious Basterds feels like a twisty, looking glass version of WW II history thought up by a movie geek, that’s because it is. Tarantino’s love of film, its history, its actors, the very films that comprise world cinema, can be felt in every frame.

One thing I love about Tarantino as a writer and as a director is that he doesn’t rush his films; he takes his time, letting the richness of the performances, the dialogue, the visuals and the music create an atmosphere and style all its own. Look at the opening scene, for example, where Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the sneaky, clever, psychotic so-called “Jew Hunter” visits the home of a French dairy farmer (played perfectly by Denis Menochet) who is suspected of harboring Jews. The scene runs about 17 minutes, and is almost a film in itself, and is almost Hitchcockian in the way that it creates dread and suspense.

If you were to take the movie poster by its word, you would assume that the film’s main star is Brad Pitt, who is delightful as Aldo Raine, the leader of the Basterds; but you’d be wrong. In addition to Pitt and Waltz, the film’s main third character is Shosanna (played by Melanie Laurent), the French proprietor of the local cinema. Shosanna’s revenge fueled plan drives the second half of the film. Melanie Laurent’s performance is one of the strongest in the film, alongside Christoph Waltz’s incredible villain, who is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

There’s a scene later in the film that I really admired that I’d like to briefly talk about, it might be the best scene in the movie. It takes place in a bar, where two members of the Basterds (Gedeon Burkhard and Til Schweiger) and the British Officer in charge of the mission (Michael Fassbender) are meeting the German double agent who will help them (another strong performance, by Diane Kruger). Like the opening sequence, this scene is like a film in itself, and also like the opening scene, it builds the suspense to an almost unbearable amount. I especially like August Diehl’s work here, as the skeptical Nazi Officer.

There’s too many good actors to mention that I haven’t already, including Daniel Bruhl as the German war hero Fredrick Zoller, Jacky Ido as Shosanna’s projectionist/lover and Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitz. There are also some interesting “guest star” choices, such as Rod Taylor (yes, Rod Taylor) as Winston Churchill!

Inglourious Basterds is a violent, spellbinding epic. Tarantino strikes again.