Having called the last two movies that I’ve reviewed the “best movie of the summer,” I though I would take a different route with Quentin Tarantino’s Nazi-killing opus, “Inglourious Basterds.” “Inglourious Basterds” is hands down the best movie of the year.
See? Totally different.
Set in Nazi occupied France, the film follows the gleefully violent and gory exploits of a group of Jewish-American soldiers known to the German army as “the Basterds.”
The group operates behind enemy lines, brutally killing and scalping anyone wearing a German uniform in order to use the Nazi’s tactics of fear and intimidation against them.
Guns, knives, baseball bats, it doesn’t really matter. They all work great for “killin’ Nazis.”
Like any good Tarantino movie, though, there’s a bit more to it then that. Actually make that a lot more. And a veritable army of supporting characters to boot.
But going in to it any further would spoil the fun of watching Tarantino’s latest masterpiece unfold on its own.
And it is a tremendous amount of fun.
The movie runs a fairly hefty 153 minutes and, to be perfectly honest, it does drag a bit. Certain scenes run a little too long, but in true Tarantino fashion, those scenes usually feature an incredible payoff.
There are few filmmakers working in Hollywood who can craft a scene quite like he can.
Key sequences burn slowly and just when you think he probably could have cut the whole sequence, something huge happens. Huge in this case meaning incredibly violent.
No sir, “Inglourious Basterds” is not for the faint of heart.
Brad Pitt is terrific as Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine, the tough as nails leader of the Basterds. His Southern drawl is spot on and he manages to grab some of the film’s biggest laughs as well.
For all its blood and guts; “Inglourious Basterds” is actually a very funny film. Call the laughs a spoonful of sugar to help the scalpings go down, if you will.
Another standout is Tarantino-cohort Eli Roth, who plays the Louisville slugger-wielding Sgt. Donnie “The Bear Jew” Donowitz. Roth does a solid job and actually succeeds in making you forget that he is really a director (“Hostel,” “Cabin Fever”) not an actor.
The big winner though, is Austrian- born actor Christoph Waltz, who portrays Col. Hans Landa. Not since Heath Ledger’s Joker, has a more delightfully maniacal villain graced the big screen.
Waltz oozes menace in every glance and smile. He elicits terror by merely ordering a glass of milk.
Save yourself some time and just pencil in Waltz’s name on your Oscar ballot for Best Supporting Actor now.
The scenes that he shares with Pitt, although few, are some of the film’s highlights.
Think of it as an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, to borrow a cliché, one that also happens to be a line from “The Dark Knight.”
Something that may scare a few viewers off— shame on you if this is true— is that the film is subtitled in some parts. Conversations are held in English, German, Italian and French, because, after all, it doesn’t make much sense to have a German officer speak English to another German officer in a German accent.
Amazingly, Tarantino’s signature dialogue style still shines through despite the language barrier. His voice is still there; even though you have to occasionally read it as opposed to listening to it.
The only quarrel that I have with the movie is that it doesn’t spend enough time with the Basterds. Granted, audiences could get tired of watching them chop up Nazis after a while, but Tarantino never gives us the opportunity.
Instead, the main plot of the movie kicks in, other characters are introduced and the Basterds are left by the wayside for lengthy periods of time.
Because of this, it’s hard to keep track of most of them. Outside of Raine and Donowitz, we get back story on only one other Basterd, the Nazi-hating turncoat Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger).
Some of them barely speak throughout the course of the film. Heck some aren’t even referred to by name until late in the game.
This is a shame, but far from an unforgivable offense.
According to Tarantino, he once considered turning his script into a TV mini-series or a novel because it had grown so massive. Surely these characters had backgrounds, but they had to be sacrificed in the name of keeping the film less than ten hours long.
As someone who refuses to leave a theater for a bathroom break while the movie is still playing, I salute him for that.
Quentin Tarantino has done it again. He is a member of an elite club of directors who have yet to make a bad film. “Inglourious Basterds” is an expertly written, ridiculously violent and just flat-out cool bit of revisionist history.