Friday, August 21, 2009

Inglourious Basterds Film Review

Inglourius Basterds is a tender romantic comedy about a French boy who falls in love with an American girl. They run to Venice where they can kiss while in a gondola to seal their love. Oops. Sorry, that's the plot to A Little Romance. (1979) Okay, this is a bleeping Quentin Tarantino film. Inglourious Basterds is a Nazi killing and scalping mishmash of spaghetti westerns, Pulp Fiction and the Dirty Dozen.

At the beginning of the film, we first meet SS colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) aka as the "Jew Hunter." The first reel of the movie is his innocuous interrogation of a farmer, looking for a Jewish family. Being a Nazi a member of the SS, we know something terrible is going to happen yet Landa is almost civilized in getting the information. Waltz's portrayal of this odious man is frightening because he is so affable. He's friendly to his victims. He smiles at them. Yet beneath the surface lies evil. He's like Glenn Beck. Anyway, Landa is able to find the family and kill them except for the family's daughter, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent)

Next, come the introduction of the Basterds. The misspelling of the title is Tarantino's idea. I wonder if he also thought of changing the SciFi channel's spelling to SyFy. But I digress. Brad Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine, a hillbilly from Tennessee. He leads a group of Jewish American soldiers. Their mission? Sneak into occupied France, kill and scalp Nazis. This being a Tarantino movie, you didn't expect a family movie about puppy dogs?

Meanwhile, Shosanna has fled to Paris and now runs a movie theater. At times, she is coerced to run German films, some directed by Leni Riefenstahl. She meets a young German soldier, Fredrick Zoller. (Daniel Bruhl) He's considered a hero because he was able to kill hundreds of Americans. A propaganda movie is made of his exploits with Zoller starring as himself. The Nazis decide to have the premiere of the movie at Shosanna's theater with high ranking Nazis in attendance. Shosanna decides this is her chance at revenge. The Basterds also see this as an opportunity to assasinate high ranking Nazis ala The Dirty Dozen.

Brad Pitt has aged well. While he plays a redneck, he displays country wisdom. Christoph Waltz should get an Oscar nomination. He gives Landa charm yet he makes your skin crawl. Melanie Laurent is mesmerizing. She's beautiful, neurotic, and strong. Her performance seethes with rage.

As for any Tarantino film, the dialogue is well written. It feels right. These are the type of lines that characters would say in these situations. Like a great conductor, he gets the emotion and humor out of each scene. Of course, there's a scene with the Tarantino Mexican standoff. But the problem with this film is Tarantino. He has a great love for B movie aesthetics and he can't stay away from them. His Pulp Fiction was revolutionary. This film is more like a live action comic book. He also lets this movie go into fantasy. And I literally mean fantasy, though not paranormal fantasy. That makes this film hard to view with sincerity.

Inglourious Basterds is a fascinating and humorous fantasy. It's hard to take seriously. Of course, the grade is "B."

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