Inglourious Basterds Review: Tarantino has struck gold once more
Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds gives a hypnotically delusive recount of the Third Reich’s reign over France and, more specifically, its ugly downfall. Presented in two completely different yet somewhat augmented plots, the film has the benefit of retaining enough Tarantino traits to entice his followers, and enough new-school camaraderie to keep things cutting-edge. There are moments of violent terror, whilst others play on sly staging gags, making this the director’s most accessible film to date.
Time after time, Tarantino manages to up his game. More than any other director he captures the desires of modern audiences in a way that is still breathtakingly pleasant, instead of condescending. Perhaps he is not the best (I’m a believer of the church of Paul Thomas Anderson, foremost), but this man is certainly the most exquisite; what’s better than action, composition, editing, camera movement and a machine-gun spray of killer dialogue if you want to go medieval on Nazi ass?
The film is divided into five chapters. I’m not going to be arid and go through each of them, but I will say the first (“Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied France”) is the most brutal. Nodding to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns, it has the unbearable tension of watching Nazi colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) interrogate a dairy farmer about Jews hiding in the area. It’s a game of cat and mouse. Waltz is a wonder. His dazzling, diabolical performance blends seductive charm and monstrous malice (in four languages). Escaping is one Jewish girl, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), who flees to Paris and runs a theatre that will figure in a plot to ensure no more springtimes for Hitler. Playing the angry, end-of-the-Nazi-command plot deviser, Mélanie Laurent is outstanding.
Next up are the Basterds, the Jewish commandos led by Pitt’s Tennessee-born Lt. Aldo Raine. After sneaking into France dressed as civilians to take down the Reich, the Basterds team with British soldier Archie Hicox (the suave Michael Fassbender), a film critic assigned by a British general. This brilliant joke asserts the fuel Basterds is run on; alternate history with a hint of World War II movie mush. Aiding the group is German movie star Bridget Von Hammersmark (achtung for Diane Kruger), now spying for the Allies. The two revenge plots converge at Shosanna’s theatre, which will premiere a propaganda film, Nation’s Pride, and boast a red carpet walked by the Gestapo elite and the man himself, Herr Hitler (Martin Wuttke).
Those in a rush will object to the time allotted to the tavern sequence (a sort of mini-Reservoir Dogs, only better) in which Bridget and the Basterds try to fake out the Nazis in a verbal duel that escalates into a shootout. But Tarantino gives his heart fully to this scene; its hair-trigger suspense tied to something as small and telling as an accent.
The crew, led by Tarantino, utilises its many years of avid of film-watching perfectly, taking much from the low-key treasures that inspired Tarantino into his, um, career choice. It can be easy to mistake these filmic technicalities as being of a defiant originality, when they are in actual fact not. I did not find this borrower’s trait aggravating to watch; I enjoyed it. It shows a maturity we’re not used to in these kinds of movies, which in-turn shows a maturity in Tarantino.
In the spectacular climax at the premiere, which Landa oversees like a chess master who’s finally met his match, Tarantino rewrites history with the only authority he has: his sovereignty as a filmmaker. Basterds will polarize audiences. But for anyone professing true movie love, there’s no resisting it. Quentin Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction. Delightful.
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