Saturday, September 12, 2009
Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds
A slow posting start this month but I am on today with my review of Quentin Tarentino's latest film. Inglourious Basterds, starring Brad Pitt. Tarentino's first film since the less than successful Grindhouse double feature Death Proof, Basterds is a mix up of a film. One part spaghetti western, one part war film, and a heavy helping of that Tarentino dialog we have come to know and love from the director make up the flick. It blends the classic elements of the westerns and war films of the late 60's and 70's and gives them a more modern flair. Sort of the Dirty Dozen meets the Sergio Leone Westerns of Italy.
Basterds is really two different films being told at the same time. The first part of the film is about Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent, a new comer) as a teenage French Jew living in occupied France in hiding. When SS Captain Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) arrives at the home she and her family are hiding in, he brutally murders them, with only Shoshanna escaping. Meanwhile Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) has formed a group of Jewish American soldiers to strike fear in the heart of the German troops and is operating a plan of attack to incite terror and fear into the troops. He does so by adopting a take no prisoners attitude and making each man owe him a debit of 100 Nazi scalps.
From there the film flash forwards 4 years into the war, Shoshanna has moved to Paris and runs a movie theatre under false documents. When Shosanna attracts the eye of a German war hero named Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhle), a decorated war hero and newly minted film star by German Minister of Propaganda Joesph Grubbles, he insists that his war film, Pride of a Nation, be screened at her theatre. When Shoshanna learns that the director of security is none other than the man who killed her family, Hans Landa, she conspires to kill all the luminaries in attendance, which would include the Fuhrer himself.
Meanwhile the Basterds are still at work having built up a fearful reputation behind enemy lines. When they receive orders to attack the theatre themselves with the help of a British SS officer named Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), and a double agent, German film star Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) they realize they have the chance to end the war early. Unfortunately things go awry for the Basterds and they have to adopt a new plan. One that involves Lt Raine himself entering the theatre, and blowing up the Nazi's inside.
The movie culminates in a double climax of sorts, as The Basterds break into the theatre and as Shoshanna launches her own plan of revenge. In the end, it doesn't turn out exactly how you expect, but the ending will surprise you.
There is a lot to like about this movie and Brad Pitt is at the top of the list. His turn as Lt. Aldo Raine, Aldo the Apache is both funny and viral, lending a much needed comic element to very horrific circumstances. His Appalachian accent and demeanor is nearly infective as you watch the film. You find yourself wanting to take on his mannerisms and dialect, if only to recapture some of that screen time. The rest of the film is made up of mostly unknown acting quantities and that both works for and against the film. You don't quite develop the same attachments to the other characters of the film as most of the fleshing out is kept to the characters of Has Landa and Shoshanna. They are really the stars of the film and Pitt and his crew of Basterds are really supporting characters. That winds up being one of my few complaints about the film. not enough of Pitt and his crew. I'd have loved to see Tarentino flesh out the Basterds the same way he did Shoshanna and Landa. You have so many unanswered questions about the crew, that you really don't get answered in the film.
Tarentino's dialog is spot on as usual, a great blend of conversational palaver and nuance. He is really one of the few masters of dialog working in the business today and he creates some really great moments in each character. It is also shot wonderfully, making it feel a bit like the spaghetti westerns of the late 60's but adding just enough of the old Hollywood style to keep it modern and fresh. This does bring me to my second complaint though, the films running time. While his films tend to have a longer format, this is one I felt that got a bit away from him. There were plenty of scenes, that while full of great dialog and character moments, could have been made a bit more succinct. I think maybe you go in with some preconceived notions of what the film is, and expecting the plot of the Basterds to be the main story, and its not. While it doesn't detract from the overall quality of the film, and it is good, one of his better films, I still feel there were opportunities missed.
Overall Inglourius Basterds is a very good movie. Don't let these complaints overshadow what is a good film. It's worth the price of admission for Brad Pitt alone and his really riveting performance. Basterds is a true send up of those films you grew up watching with your dad, a little bit of the past modernized for the changing tastes of America. Check it out.
End of Line.