Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Normally I approach a new Tarantino film with caution because more often than not, due to his fame and talent, his movies are severely hyped in the months leading up to their release; they are promoted with so much zeal and accompanied by so many industry buzz-words that I usually end up being slightly disappointed with the final product. It was the case with Kill Bill 1-2 and Death Proof. For Inglourious Basterds, however, I purposefully avoided reading early reviews (it has been screening at various festivals since Cannes) so that I could go in with a fresh mind and the opportunity to truly judge it for myself.
In true Tarantino style, the movie is split up into chapters – five to be exact, which move the plot along extremely well. Most people who have only seen one or two trailers for this movie might be under the impression that it will focus on the Basterds and their attempts to accumulate Nazi scalps; fortunately this plot is only a fraction of the story, which relies on several otherkey characters (both good and bad) to carry the film
The main characters in this movie all bring special elements to the table. Firstly you have Lt. Aldo Raine, played by Brad Pitt, and his 8-man killing team, the Basterds. His guerilla group of Jewish-American soldiers prowls the French countryside, terrorizing various Nazi infantry groups. Tales of their unorthodox methods of killing quickly spread and reach Hitler, who becomes deeply concerned with their continued existence. Pitt’s character epitomizes the ‘good ‘ole’ Southern boy and reminded me of Butch Coolidge’s character from Pulp Fiction. Tarantino himself is from Tennessee and enjoys sprinkling a dash of southern flavor in his characters (Maynard from Pulp Fiction is another example).
Secondly there is Bridget von Hammersmark, played by Diane Kruger, who is a spy for the Allies. Kruger’s character draws many comparisons to Marlene Dietrich and, much like second female protagonist Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), exudes a calm and collected attitude while fulfilling the duties of her job. She collaborates with the Basterds on a special mission in Paris. Finally, there is the aforementioned Shoshanna. She is a young Parisian cinema owner who escaped the gruesome execution of her family. With shades of The Bride (from Kill Bill), Shoshanna is strong-willed and bent on revenge, with a deep-rooted hatred for everything that is German.
The revelation of the film, however, and one of the greatest performances that I have witnessed in my life comes courtesy of Christoph Waltz, who portrays Col. Hans Landa. Landa is known as the Jew Hunter, an extremely clever man whose calm demeanor and flawless etiquette garner him respect everywhere he goes. Waltz is a cunning line-reader who quickly reminded me of Col. Douglas Mortimer from Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More, just another example of Tarantino’s admiration of spaghetti westerns. This performance is so pristine and unbelievable that Waltz truly earned his Best Actor Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Besides a fantastic cast, Inglourious Basterds is loaded with brilliant elements, such as a powerful score containing a fair share of Ennio Morricone, another spaghetti-western regular. Clocking in at 149 minutes, there isn’t a single dull moment in the entire film. The script is watertight and the pacing is flawless, unlike some of Tarantino’s previous efforts. With equal amounts of English, French, German and eye-talian, Tarantino has finally reached a new level in his writing that, to me, easily bests his previous work.
Inglourious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s seminal production. It’s a masterpiece containing the best elements from his previous films as well as some new ones. The hard work he has put into this movie and script in the past decade, honing it into the best film it can be, is evident. The hundreds of people in the Fantasia audience who saw this with me on Wednesday night at its Canadian premiere could not have summarized it any better when they enthusiastically applauded for several minutes following its end. You must not miss this when it comes out on August 21st.