Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inglorious Basterds: DVD Review (with minor spoilers)

I was definitely worried that Inglorious Basterds wouldn't live up to the hype, or that it would just be another incredibly violent movie from Quentin Tarantino. Thankfully, it totally lived up to the hype and also was a very violent movie, though not as gratuitously as some of his others. It returns to a lot of the strengths that he brought to Pulp Fiction, with strong story-telling, with different characters ultimately arriving at the same place and the story coming full-circle. The analogy that kept coming to mind to describe the connection between the two movies was Pulp Fiction is to crime movies as Inglorious Basterds is to war films. That is to say, it's only vaguely related to their larger genres. Basterds follows a group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Brad Pitt who will be dropped into occupied France to "kill Nazis". They build up a reputation of brutal slayings, pissing off the Nazi higher ups, specifically, Col. Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz in his Golden-Globe nominated performance) who has built up his own reputation as "The Jew Hunter". The story is told in chapters, each small story adding up to the complete and final chapter. The first chapter shows Waltz trying to find out if a family is hiding a Jewish family in their farm. He's jolly, and friendly and ultimately scares the crap out of you with his cruelty, which is what you remember every time he reappears. You're never sure if he'll be evil or jolly (sorry, that's an odd word to describe him, but it's what he seems to me). Meanwhile, we meet a French cinema-owner who strikes the eye of a German war hero (Daniel Bruhl). He convinces Goebbels to move the premiere of the new German propaganda movie to her theater. She decides to blow up the theater to trap them all inside. At the same time our Basterds have reached Paris and also plan to blow up the theater, though they need help getting in from a film star (Diane Kruger). She meets the Basterds in a bar, which ends in a pretty great gun fight as other German soldiers are there and they blow their secret identities. Ultimately, their scheme succeeds, but I won't tell you how or who survives.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It was long, (158 minutes) but it doesn't drag very often, and each new chapter brings in new characters. Also, and I vaguely remember this being an issue when it came out, all the characters speak the language they're meant to speak based on their character and the conversation taking place (i.e. Brad Pitt speaks English when he's talking to his troops, Landa speaks German to soldiers, but French to the local people). They actually justify, very subtly, the language being spoken at any moment. All the acting is terrific - particularly Waltz and Melanie Laurent (the French Cinema owner), both pictured. Also, by just setting the story during WWII and using the same characters, but letting the story run however he wants, Tarantino maintains the tensions in ways most war films couldn't. You can't assume anyone lives or dies just because history says they did (or didn't). Very good movie, definitely deserving of a spot in the top 10 movies of 2009. 4 of 5 stars/lambs


Reel Whore said...

I really dug IB. Pitt was hilarious. Their I-Talian covers for the premier still plays in my head.

I want to rent this and see how much stuff QT left on the cutting room floor.

Rachel said...

One of my favorites of the year! If Brad knows what's good for him, this better be under the Christmas tree:)