cast: Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, and Michael Fassbender
writer and director: Quentin Tarantino
153 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Universal DVD Region 2 retail
[released 7 December]
review by Adam Hartley
After more than a decade in the making, and much anticipation, Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Inglourious Basterds (purposefully misspelt), has a lot to live up to. Within five seconds of the opening credits I am already in love with the film. With titles reminiscent of Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, it becomes evident that this really will be a Second World War western, and it even uses a number of Ennio Morricone pieces. Setting the tone for the film, the first chapter reads: “Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…” making it immediately apparent that this won’t be an entirely historically accurate endeavour.
The film opens on a farm in France one year into the German occupation. Here we meet a farmer who may or may not be hiding Jews, and Colonel Hans Landa (Christophe Waltz) a Nazi known as ‘the Jew hunter’.
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What unfolds here is a 20-minute conversation that completely sucks you into Tarantino’s world and then reminds you not to get too comfortable as anything could happen.
There are shocks throughout the film and just as you settle in with a laugh the tension is built up again and you realise that you can’t actually relax. The film has five chapters which intertwine and relate, but what’s surprising is the lack of what seems to be lead character. The supposed lead, Brad Pitt, is actually only in three of the five chapters.
It is essentially just classic Tarantino. There are numerous references to cult films and a layered plot that goes everywhere except where you expect. The film even includes the famous Wilhelm Scream. The basic plot sees Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine and his ruthless team of soldiers – known as the Basterds – enter Nazi occupied France to kill as many Nazis as possible. This mission takes them to a film premiere playing host to the German high command; here they plan to assassinate everybody. However, they don’t count on the cinema’s owner’s personal itinerary.
From the very start though, it is Waltz’s Landa who steals the film in an Oscar worthy performance. Tarantino said at one point that he would have abandoned filming had he not found Waltz. You can see why, as well, as this is probably the most complex of all his creations and really makes the film.
As with all Tarantino films it’s the dialogue that makes it so good. That’s where the real action is. In one standout scene set in a French bar we see British officer Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) and two Basterds try to outwit a Nazi officer. Here the tension is built with power moving back and forth between characters in a typical Tarantino Mexican stand-off.
The thing is, as with most Tarantino films, it is very funny. There might be a lot of tension but it is incredibly enjoyable to watch, even with a huge runtime of 153 minutes you enjoy every second. It actually gets funnier and funnier as it progresses. Even at the end when it all starts kicking off it is still very funny. There is a definite feel that Tarantino really enjoyed making this film. It comes across like an infectious laugh bringing joy to all those who see it. You can’t help but laugh as the events play out; you know exactly what’s coming and still can’t believe it as it happens.
From the outset this film doesn’t disappoint. Having taken a decade to make you would hope that this would be the best Tarantino film ever, and as the last line says: “This might just be my masterpiece.” He could well be right.