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Inglourious Basterds

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on January 9, 2010

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

In honour of the film’s recent release on DVD, and the fact that I just re-watched it, I figured this would be a good time for a review! I hope you’re all excited.

The film is a work of alternate-reality fiction. That’s one thing that needs to be established. My father didn’t seem to get that until the coup de grace of the film. By the way, I made the mistake of trying to watch this film on DVD with my father, which made the 3 hour film last for about 6. Not only that, but from the moment I started watching with him, which was after I heard the music for the opening credits stop, he started barraging me with questions about what was going to happen. Why bother watching the movie? But, I digress…

This is the first film of Quentin Tarantino’s that I’ve loved since Pulp Fiction. I’ve enjoyed some of his other films just fine (some more so than others), I’ve loved films he has written but not directed, and I’ve loved and hated films he has produced (I will never forgive him for luring me to Hostel). The major flaw in this film, overall, is that Tarantino is too in love with himself as a screenwriter. There are large segments of the film where it’s just self-satisfying dialogue that serves more purpose to satisfy Tarantino than it offers the film. But, unlike my impatient father, I didn’t mind most of the dialogue (well, I did a little bit the second time around, but that might have been because I was anticipating his comments).

One of his best characters in this film is a man of many words, who also happens to be responsible for a number of the dialogue-heavy scenes. That character is actually a Nazi named Col. Hans Landa (impeccably played by Christoph Waltz), and he’s an most amazing dichotomy. His nickname is the “Jew Hunter”, as he’s fantastic at “hunting Jews”, so he’s clearly killed a lot of them. He seems to take great pride and joy in what he does, so he’s a despicable man. And yet, he’s unbelievably charming and funny, so he’s one of the audience’s favourite characters. You cannot help but love him. He’s has sort of a Hannibal Lecter quality to him– his charisma just wins you over, even though you clearly know he’s a terrible human being. Christoph Waltz’s performance is fantastic to watch, and he’s on the shortlist for possible Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominees.

Every actor in this film did a great job, except for one person. I’ll get to that person in a bit, as this issue relates to one of my earlier comments and it deserves its own section of my review (sadly). Brad Pitt’s accent was hilarious, and I loved him in this role as Lt. Aldo Raine ( a reference to WWII vet and actor Aldo Ray and possibly a character from Rolling Thunder with the last name “Rane”). I thought the failed-hanging mark across the front of his neck was a nice character touch (I’m assuming that’s what the mark was, as it’s never explained to us).  I loved Mélanie Laurent, who played Shosanna, the only member of the Dreyfus family to escape the wrath of Hans Landa. Her situation is tragic, but she manages to turn it on its head and make it into her legacy. The actress is charming and beautiful. She’s quiet, graceful. and composed, offering us jut the hint of emotion when her character is desperately trying to show absolutely none. Diane Kruger plays the part of a famous German actress well, which is funny because she is a German actress but had to convince Tarantino of this fact after he turned her down because he wanted “a real German actress”. She literally had to prove to him that she was German. Hilarious. Anyway, I like Diane Kruger (I have a soft spot for National Treasure) and I thought she gave a solid performance here. I adored most of the Basterds, especially Til Schweiger as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, essentially a German defector to the anti-Nazi side. I swear he looks familiar, but I can’t seem to find anything on his IMDB résumé that leads me to an “ah ha!” moment, so I’ll just let that continue to bug me. And, lastly, I sort of fell in love with Michael Fassbender as Lt. Archie Hicox. I think he reminded me of Ewan McGregor in the film, but I thought he was suave and superb. Also attractive. Don’t question me.

Now for the problematic casting choice: Eli Roth. To anyone who knows me, my loathing of Eli Roth is no secret. I have hated him ever since I saw Cabin Fever all those years ago, and I hated him even more for bringing us Hostel. Why Tarantino adores him is beyond me. Roth directs the Nazi propaganda film within Inglourious Basterds, which tickled both him and Tarantino pink because Eli Roth is Jewish (in case you couldn’t tell) and they were patting themselves on the back for the irony. When Roth is just being silly, I don’t mind his work so much (well, short and silly, like his faux trailer in Grindhouse), so that’s not the issue I had with him. My issue is that he was cast as an actor in the film, as well. He plays the “Bear Jew”, who loves to beat Nazis to death with a baseball bat. The thing is, Eli Roth can’t act. Everything he did felt so horribly forced and ridiculous within a sea of good performances. He stood out like Julia Roberts on Rodeo Drive (a la Pretty Woman) and it was just sad to watch. Shame on you, Tarantino, for loving Roth so much that you allow such imperfection within one of your masterpieces. Where is your pride?

The other big issue I had with the film comes towards the end. I don’t want to totally spoil it, but I will say that Shosanna had been dealing with this pest of a Nazi soldier throughout most of the movie, and when he finally shows his true colours, there’s really no reason to feel sorry for him at all. For some reason–which is such a goddamn cliché that I expected Tarantino to avoid–she does show him sympathy in a moment where you know that’s the wrong reaction, and it’s a bad call on her part. I thought it was pointless and absurd. My guess is that it was supposed to show how “humane” she was as opposed to the Nazis, but it really wasn’t needed, nor was it logical. I so wish that part never happened. It really irked me because I enjoyed nearly every other aspect of the film. But, as you might have noticed, little things like that will get to me.

Overall, the film is put together in pieces, as per typical Tarantino fare. The performances really make the movie, but the stories are also well-constructed. Still, while most parts of the lengthy dialogue scenes do tie into at least one storyline, Tarantino’s script does tend to weigh down some parts of the film–especially if you’re impatient.

Do I recommend this film? Yes, to the nth degree. Buy it, even if you haven’t seen it, and enjoy it! This is the ultimate revenge fantasy against the Nazis. It’s so satisfying and fun. It makes you wish for this alternate reality, as well. But really, I’m not just saying this because I’m Jewish and I have a special place in my heart for watching Nazis suffer. It’s fantastically fun. If you’re not a fan of violence and blood, well… then maybe you should skip it. But I still think that it’s enjoyable just because who doesn’t like to see Nazis get what they deserved?

Also, this film is getting some serious Oscar buzz. Watch out for Christoph Waltz as Best Supporting Actor, as I mentioned before, as well as nods for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director. There’s potential for categories like Best Editing, as well. Ah, Oscar season! In the words of Hans Landa, “What fun!”

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6 Responses to “Inglourious Basterds”

  1. That girl that you know said

    I found the film to be highly enjoyable, even the parts with a lot of dialogue. I think those scenes helped to give the film an overwhelming feeling of tension, which made them entertaining and engaging. The dialogue also showed us just how charming and manipulative Landa can be.

    I agree about Shoshanna. I hated that incredibly cliche scene at the end. It was such a stupid thing to do to that character.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      Well I enjoy his dialogue in this film, as well, but there are parts that felt a little long the second time around. Most of them have to do with Sosanna and the Nazis around her, I think. Tarantino’s ego worked well for Hans Landa’s lengthy monologues but not so much for scenes like cafe or the bar. I felt both were a bit longer than needed, but, overall, his dialogue is not a huge problem in this film (thankfully).

  2. Alex said

    The dialogue is what makes a tarantino film. It’s the reason that the scene in the cafe at the end of pulp fiction is one of my favourites. He just forgot how to do it for kill bill.

    The part at the beginning between hans landa and the French farmer is certainly one of my favourite parts of the film. Intense.

    • Cantankerous Panda said

      I know Tarantino is all about the dialogue– it’s just that sometime he pushes it too much and it drags. It felt a little lengthy in some scenes, but it could have been the effect of my dad’s impatience (I didn’t want him to dismiss the movie or make obnoxious comments, so I, too, was trying to will the dialogue along). And I agree about the beginning. It was heart-wrenching, suspenseful, hilarious, and disturbing at the same time.

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