Written By: Dan Geer
I will preface this review by being completely honest. Quentin Tarantino’s style of film making has never really been my thing. His movies have always come off as either pretentious or simply overly-stylized to me – sort of style for style’s sake. They always came off like Tarantino is just full of himself as an artistic film maker.
But even though his new film, Inglourious Basterds (inspired by a B-movie with the same name spelled correctly from 1977) has Tarantino written all over it – with the retro Universal Studios logo and opening credits, the modern music playing in the middle of a film taking place in the 1940s, the unusually long stretches of dialogue, etc. – I found myself not bothered by it this time around. In fact, the “Tarantino style of film making” is what makes this movie work so well. I’m sure that’s what made his other movies work so well for other people in the past, but it always seemed forced to me until now. Perhaps it is just the subject matter that makes the difference.
Tarantino’s latest movie takes place in France during Nazi occupation, starting off with the character of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and his Nazi goon squad visiting a dairy farmer (Denis Menochet) who is secretly hiding Jews underneath his floorboards. This scene ends with one of the Jews, a character by the name of Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), escaping the massacre orchestrated by the Colonel that happens to the rest of her family.
Next we’re introduced to Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played humorously by Brad Pitt), leader of the “Inglourious Basterds,” a special team of men organized by the Lieutenant for, as he in his southern American accent would say it ,”one thang and one thang only: Killin’ Nazis” – specifically brutally bashing their faces in, gunning them down and cutting off their scalps.
As it turns out, the Jewish girl Shosanna and the Basterds have something in common when a flirtatious Nazi War hero turned actor, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), meets her and wants to premiere his new film in front of a whole horde of Nazis (including Hitler himself) at the Kino that she currently runs. Anxious to avenge her family’s death, she plans to burn down the Kino with the Nazis trapped inside by setting the whole building on fire by igniting her collection of nitrate film reels. Meanwhile, the Basterds ultimately want the same thing – except they simply plan on blowing up the building with good ol’ fashioned dynamite.
Obviously none of this is historically accurate, but that is the whole point of this movie. It is simply meant to be a great story taking place in an alternate universe where Hitler’s demise happens quite differently, perhaps in a better way. It is also meant to be a movie that visualizes artistically what we all would have liked to do to the Nazis if we were alive back then. I don’t know one person who wouldn’t enjoy seeing a Nazi get his comeuppance. Everyone hates them and we are all glad that Hitler is dead and his reign has long since been over. This movie simply allows us to live out that fantasy of seeing Nazis destroyed in a new and creative way.
This is a long movie, mostly due to the incredibly drawn-out scenes of dialogue. But each of these scenes let the audience know that something big is about to go down long before the dialogue is over, keeping us on the edge of our seats as we wait patiently to see just how all of it will play out with every scene. Normally, I hate when Tarantino does this, but somehow it works for me here. The performances of Brad Pitt, as well as the stellar European cast (especially Christoph Waltz, who deserves an Oscar) help keep these long scenes entertaining and tolerable as well.
The way all the pieces fit together (fittingly labled “chapters” throughout the movie) to bring all the characters together at the climax of the movie is constructed brilliantly. And while this movie can get pretty violent at times, it cleverly captures the imagination of anyone who has ever wanted to watch a Nazi die a brutal death. What more can you want out of a movie that glorifies the slaying of the evil Nazi regime?