Eccentric Cinema has been online for almost nine years... and
you're only NOW getting around to a Quentin Tarantino movie?
yeah. There are a zillion critiques of Pulp
Fiction and the Kill Bill
saga out there, so I just didn't feel the need —
although I've loved, or at least liked, all of his films to date,
even the problematic Death Proof.
But a QT-helmed excursion into World War II Europe... Now that's
who chose to see Inglourious Basterds
based on the trailers and TV spots certainly got something different;
those promos were blatantly, intentionally misleading. This is
most definitely not an action-adventure film (even if the
Weinstein brothers wanted us to think so). It's a wonderfully
oddball mélange of cartoon caricatures, extremely dark
humor, tragic drama and bloody horror. True to Tarantino form,
— with the exception of its apocalyptic, history-twisting climax
— isn't so much a narrative as it is a collection of linked yet
stand-alone set-pieces consisting almost entirely of dialog. The
most potent sequences owe much to the Sergio Leone school of long,
slow, escalating tension finally bursting into brief but savage
eruptions of violence. Terms like "Nazi Pulp Fiction"
and "WWII Spaghetti Western" have been bandied about
when discussing IB, and while a tad
simplistic these labels are unquestionably apt.
Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a Tennessee hillbilly with a ginormous
Bowie knife, assembles a squad of Jewish-American soldiers for
a special mission in Nazi-occupied France. They are to be parachuted
behind enemy lines weeks before D-Day, dressed in civvies. Once
on the ground they're to launch a campaign of wholesale slaughter
in full violation of the Geneva Convention. There's no specific
aim to the mission other than striking terror in the heart of
every German soldier in France — that, and killin' Nazis. "Aldo
the Apache" ups the ante by demanding that each of his "Basterds"
owes him 100 Nazi scalps before they're through. The Jewish G.I.s,
among them the eager, baseball bat-wielding "Bear Jew"
(Eli Roth), are more than happy to oblige him. Renegade German
soldier Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) soon joins the squad when
the Basterds spring him from prison. (A notorious criminal, he
was condemned for the murders of 13 Gestapo officers.)
long the Basterds have developed such a fearsome reputation that
an exasperated Hitler (Martin Wuttke) forbids their even being
mentioned by the German military. Meanwhile, in Paris, Nazi Propaganda
Minister Josef Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) schedules a gala premiere
for his latest morale-boosting film: Nation's Pride, the
true story of a Wehrmacht sniper who single-handedly killed over
300 American troops. High-ranking officials and glitterati of
the Nazi regime are slated to attend. The event is to be held
at the elegant Le Gamaar cinema owned by the alluring Shosanna
Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) — who, unbeknownst to the Gestapo, is
actually a Jewess living under an assumed name. In charge of security
for the premiere is the frighteningly efficient Col. Hans Landa
(Christoph Waltz), the SS officer responsible for the massacre
of Shosanna's entire family three years before.
Intelligence is tipped off about the gala by celebrated German
actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), an undercover
spy for the Allies. "Operation Kino" is quickly hatched
to ensure that the premiere of Nation's Pride will be more
eventful than Goebbels could ever imagine. A former film critic
serving in the British army, fluent in German, is recruited to
rendezvous with von Hammersmark in France. They'll need help,
though, and that's where Aldo the Apache and his Basterds come
supposedly worked on IB's screenplay,
off and on, for almost a decade. Some instances of sloppy plotting
lead me to believe that he didn't labor over the script quite
long enough. To wit:
Sharp-eyed Gestapo officer Maj. Hellstrom (August Diehl) —
who "knows every German in France" —
fails to recognize legendary Nazi slayer Hugo Stiglitz sitting
right next to him.
Bridget von Hammersmark's excuse for the fresh plaster cast on
her leg — that she had an accident while mountain climbing — is
so inane that it immediately confirms Landa's suspicions. ("And
where in Paris is this mountain?") All she had to say
was that she fell down the stairs at her hotel... but then Tarantino
would've been deprived of making yet another reference to the
German "mountain" films of G.W. Pabst and Leni Riefenstahl.
Adolf Hitler, the most hated man in the world and target of numerous
assassination attempts, has a security detail of exactly two (two!)
bodyguards while attending an event in a hostile, occupied country.
Tarantino tries to fudge this by stressing (during the restaurant
scene) that the devious Landa is in charge of security for Hitler's
visit to Paris, but I'm not buying it. A local SS colonel would
NEVER be given that authority. Hitler's immediate physical
safety was always entrusted to hand-picked men of the Fuhrerbegleitkommando.
And certainly more than two of 'em!
Where the hell is Himmler? Tarantino incorrectly labels Josef
Goebbels as the "the Number Two Man in Hitler's Third Reich".
He wasn't, not by a long shot. That would be Heinrich Himmler,
head of the SS and Gestapo. Not only does Himmler not attend
the Parisian premier, he's never even mentioned. (???)
He could have easily been written into the script, glimpsed only
in passing just as Nazi bigwigs Hermann Göring and Martin
Bormann are. Was Tarantino too lazy to even bother with Wikipedia?
course, QT doesn't really give a fig about plot; he's all about
and how cool everyone looks speaking it. The familiar men-on-a-mission
tropes are thus almost completely dispensed with. British agent
Lt. Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is told that he's to be dropped
by parachute into France; the very next instant he's already there,
teamed up with the Basterds and kitted out in full SS regalia,
disguised as a German officer. Other than two (very) brief flashbacks,
we never really see the Basterds do any kind of soldiering
or commando stuff. Apparently Tarantino just wasn't interested
in that. I suppose it doesn't hurt the film that nothing of the
sort was included, but it seems to me that IB
would've been strengthened by the addition of at least one battle
scene. (Say, the ambush resulting in the capture of the German
soldiers the Basterds are shown interrogating in the culvert during
Chapter Two.) In a similar vein, the Hugo Stiglitz character is
built up to be this totally badass killer yet ends up doing next
to nothing before being removed from the story. Why not give us
just a little bit more of this guy? As is, the film doesn't feel
long despite the 2½ hour running time; an additional 4
or 5 minutes of combat wouldn't have made it seem any longer,
and may have gone a little way in appeasing the grumblers who
not without some justification —
thought a WWII movie called Inglourious
Basterds, featuring Nazi-scalping American commandos, should
have at least some action in it.
lest the reader get the impression that this is a negative review,
let me briefly expound on the good, the great and the wunderbar
in IB, which is considerable.
and all, this is QT's best film since Pulp
Fiction, certainly his most technically accomplished. The
dialog, even when subtitled, is clever, sharp and interesting;
wandering off on goofy conversational tangents, as what happened
with Death Proof, is for the most
part avoided. The chilling opening scene at the French farmhouse
a direct homage to Lee Van Cleef's introduction in The
Good, the Bad & the Ugly —
is brilliantly evocative filmmaking, ratcheting up the tension
by agonizing degrees as the resolution we dread draws nigh. The
haunting resignation to his death (by bat-bludgeoning) of the
stoically brave German sergeant, Shosannah's preparations for
the big premiere, and the final, fiery Götterdämmerung
in the theater are all bravura sequences proving Tarantino a superb
visual stylist when he has the inspiration. (He's not just all
talk.) To accompany this vision he's chosen a sometimes wildly
anachronistic soundtrack lifted from other films — Stiglitz gets
the fuzz-guitar riff from 1972's Slaughter
— that somehow, impossibly, works beautifully.
cringed when I first saw/heard Brad Pitt in the trailer, thinking:
He's not channeling Lee Marvin... He's a complete joke!
Turns out, that's exactly it. He's supposed to be a joke,
something I didn't realize until I actually watched the movie.
Of all the characters with any significant amount of dialog, only
Adolf Hitler and Pitt's Aldo Raine are expressly painted as human
cartoons. (These two, the special forces lieutenant and the Nazi
warlord, possess the most clear-cut sense of purpose. Which in
the WWII of the Tarantinoverse means they're the comic relief!)
With his cornpone drawl and facial grimaces Pitt is hilarious
in the role, delivering an amusingly affected yet relaxed performance.
Myers' turn as a British general smacks to me of unnecessary stunt
casting (I can't but help hearing Austin Powers whenever he speaks
with an English accent), but at least he doesn't embarrass himself.
Both Mélanie Laurent and Diane Kruger are thoroughly excellent
as the film's two very different femmes fatale — one beautiful
but haunted, driven to the ultimate revenge; the other glamorous,
brave and a little bit ruthless. Daniel Brühl's sensitive portrayal
of the "German Audie Murphy", Pvt. Zoller, makes his
character much more important to the story than it ordinarily
might have been. As for Christoph Waltz, I can only add to the
universal acclaim he's received for his star-making performance.
Tarantino has stated that without the perfect actor in the part
of the wily, chameleon-like Landa, he "didn't have a movie."
Fortunately for us he found that perfect actor. Charming, funny
and scary (in four languages, no less), Waltz essays the most
fascinating and charismatic screen villain of the decade. Give
the man that Oscar, you schweinhunds!
know the drill when it comes to new releases from a major studio…
The widescreen (2.40:1) anamorphic transfer is virtually flawless,
backed by an excellent 5.1 audio mix. (Gott im Himmel,
are those gunshots ever loud!) As this is the single-disc edition,
the only extras are a trio of extended/alternate scenes, the ‘complete’
version of Nation's Pride (6 min.), and a selection of
Basterds is also
available in a two-disc DVD Special Edition (with more extensive
bonus features, notably a 30-minute roundtable discussion with
Tarantino, Pitt and film critic Elvis Mitchell) as well as on