Inglourious Basterds Short Review (4 of 5)
Don’t worry. No SPOILERS on this one. Not really a short review, though. I ran longer than I thought that I would (kind of like this movie).
I felt like I was cheated after the credits flashed on the screen at the end of Inglorious Basterds. Tarantino cheated me out of an onscreen death of director Eli Roth who ‘acts’ in this movie (if you can call it acting). I’m not giving anything away by saying that. Does he survive? Does he die offscreen? You’ll have to see the movie to find out. Going in, knowing that the movie had been influenced by the original Inglorious Bastards and movies like the Dirty Dozen, AND that this is a Tarantino movie; I figured I had an excellent shot of seeing Eli Roth take a headshot, be disemboweled, or have an eye gouged or SOMETHING! Is it on the cutting room floor Quentin? I’ll buy THAT DVD if I can get a version where Roth dies Inglouriously… I want to state that I don’t hate Eli Roth and I don’t wish him any harm of course… I’m sure he’s likeable enough in person. I just would like him to suffer a fittingly grotesque figurative death for all of the torture-porn crap movies of his that I was stupid enough to sit through… I don’t mind violence or gore in movies as long as it’s not a geek show, which all of his movies are…. What? Oh. Yeah. This IS a short review of Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie… I just had to get most of the Roth thing out of the way and am letting you, the reader know that, yes, I do let biases get in my way of reviewing stuff. Unlike every other reviewer, though, I will admit that to you up front and give you the reason why I have the bias.
So anyway, here we go….
Quentin Tarantino’s worst movie (Deathproof… director-wise leastways) is better than most other Hollywood Directors’ best efforts (see McG’s imdb credits for a good example). Inglourious Basterds is probably the one of the better live action theatrical release that I’ve seen this year (up there with The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire, and Body Of Lies)… I don’t know where I’d place this in the order of great Quentin Tarantino flicks, yet, but I think it falls behind Jackie Brown and Pulp Fiction at the moment. It has all the standard qualities of Tarantino’s films including great plotting, dialogue, (semi-)unexpected twists, shocking moments, humor, a great soundtrack and great individual performances from his cast (except for the aforementioned Roth, of course… He sucked large dimpled golf balls). I always say it’s up to the director for the most part as to whether the actors do a good job or not, and Tarantino seems to be one of those guys that can take even a bad actor and get something good out of them (except for Roth… He was awful). Luckily he can pick who he wants to work with now…
This movie didn’t have a lot of plot twists. It milked a simpler story (simple for Tarantino) for all that it’s worth. It did involve a lot of characters as his movies usually do, but it concentrated on 4 characters primarily… Brad Pitt’s way-over-the-top performance as a Nazi-killing Lt. Raine, Melanie Laurent a Jewish Theater owner in France, Diane Kruger in a pivotal role as a German star, and of course, Christoph Waltz as Landa ‘The Hunter’ an intelligently evil Nazi baddie. Landa made the most of a large part and all of the Awards coming his way are deserved. He’s a very memorable bad-guy partly because of Tarantino’s writing, but obviously in the way he delivers the lines. I think a lot of people will know who he is after this movie.
The movie borrowed from movies of the past, but Tarantino doesn’t steal so much as create better versions of cliched genre movies. Obviously there were similarities to the Dirty Dozen (as in the scene above), where Brad Pitt is in the Lee Marvin role and he leads a team of mostly Jewish soldiers against the Nazis.Unlike the Dozen, though, you never really get to know any of them to a large degree, and one or two seem to be thrown in as red herrings.
You can also see a lot of love for the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns as in some of his past films. There were spots in this movie, especially in the beginning of this that had the same pacing as Once Upon A Time In The West. I’m actually not as big of fan of that movie as Tarantino is. While it’s a pretty good movie it was in SERIOUS need of some heavier-handed editing. There’s a scene at the beginning of that movie where Jack Elam playing a gunfighter sits at a train station waiting for the train to come. There is like a 2 or 3 minute extreme closeup shot of Elam refusing to wave his hand to brush a fly off of his face and sits there blowing on his upper lip while the fly buzzes and crawls around his unshaven mug. There were similar scenes throughout that film (and all of Leone’s films for that matter) that seemed to last a lot longer than they should have. We don’t have to see everything in real time. Basterds has a lot of those same elements. In fairness, Tarantino does use these longer tedious shots pretty effectively, though, to set up mood and to deliver some of his trademark shocks. Some of them reminded me more of all of the slo-mo in the over-rated movie ‘300’, seemingly being used to unnecessarily drag out the movie’s running time.
Brad Pitt does most of the acting where the soldiers are concerned and that’s a good thing. I think Pitt is a lot of times cast off as the ‘pretty boy’, but he’s really a pretty good actor. I think he knows what he does well playing characters that border on caricature, but he’s definitely under-rated in the decisions that he’s made. I saw an interview where Tarantino said that it was Brad’s decision to play the character so broad, and that he wasn’t convinced that it was the right decision until later. After seeing this, I can’t picture Aldo Raine as a ‘serious’ part and don’t think this movie would have worked nearly as well without Pitt acting in the manner that he did. I don’t think the movie would have been nearly as fun, either.
There are 2 women that play large parts in this movie. The first is Shoshanna Dreyfuss played by Melanie Laurent (above). Tarantino, I think goes out of his way to right ‘strong female’ roles in his movies and to not just write them as the ‘love interests’. Of the 2 major women in the movie, Larent played the lesser of the 2. For me, it was because of how the character was written.One of her scenes in particular was especially jarring and out of place in the movie and IMO, should have been edited outand that was the scene where she was preparing to—- darn it. I won’t spoil anything…. But maybe you’ll know what I mean when you see it. There was also a plot setup that was never followed through on; her relationship with Landa was never really resolved. It was almost like Tarantino was writing for one ending and changed his mind and had just forgotten about what he had established to that point. Oh, well.
The ‘other woman’ in the movie was Bridgette Von Hammersmark played by the overly lovely Diane Kruger. She’s one of those ‘model-turned-actresses’, but I think this movie proves that she has the acting skills required and didn’t just get the job because she has a pretty face. This wasn’t a big stretch for her to play (she’s a beautiful, German actress playing, get this, a beautiful, German actress), but she really stands out amongst the cast and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is nominated for an award or two. In fact, I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t get nominated.
Of course, the major standout in the movie is the bad guy (one of them) Hans Landa played with fervor by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. I don’t know if this is his first American role, but it’s definitely one that will put him on the American radar. He plays a character that goes from a ‘polite eloquence’ to ‘giddily crazy’ to ‘downright off his rocker’, speaks in at least 4 languages in the movie and is the lynchpin for the impetus of the movie. I remember seeing Tarantino talking about having written the opening for this movie some 11 years ago and how after putting it away, still knowing how great the scene was. Having seen the movie, I thought the scene was cliched and predictable, but Waltz elevates the scene to greater heights than it would have without him. It’s funny that he is much more understated as the villain than the Pitt character is. As whacky as Landa is, his character would feel right at home in more ‘serious WWII movie with Nazis.
Speaking of which, obviously there is a lot out there of people saying that the movie isn’t historically accurate and it’s not, but that’s no biggie in this case. I do think it might’ve served Tarantino a little better had he not put the historical figures in the movie. The names really don’t matter in this. Hitler was not really the main villain and although the ending would’ve been changed slightly, they could have still arrived at the same spot at the end of the movie and not had to get around the historical inaccuracy. As it is, it’s some kind of weird fantasy movie, albeit with some intense gore. When Churchill popped up, I instantly recognized who the actor was protraying, but I highly doubt that most of the younger midnight audience had any idea who Winston Churchill was, so it just seemed unnecessary in a movie that wasn’t going to be historically accurate in the first place.
Not Tarantino’s best, but not a bad movie by any means, Inglorious Basterds will get Tarantino to a better movie somewhere down the line. As it stands at the moment, there haven’t been too many great movies released so far this year, so it could have an outside shot at getting Quentin another Oscar nod. Now that I think about it, since they’re ignortardically going to 10 Best Picture Nominees this year it probably will. Not that I care about the Oscars, anyway.
And just to give this one of my no-system ratings: the movie was a little slow, but extremely watchable so I give this 4 out of 5 whatever it is that you want to rate it with.Stars, thumbs, whatever…. I need a system of my own, like Horrorview.com’s (the Total Shit designation they give to poor reviews is utter genius).
One thing that I enjoyed BEFORE the movie even started were the breathtaking trailers for The Wolfman (which I didn’t think that I would like) that looked absolutely impressive for a werewolf flick, Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the Dark Knight starring Leonardo DiCraprio, and last but certainly not least, AVATAR! I’ve been waiting for that one’s trailer for years now. Jim Cameron has always been one of my favorite directors, so I was completely excited to see the teaser and it didn’t let me down at all. I ‘get’ what it’s about now. I’m sure they held back plenty, but after seeing it, I wondered if I didn’t see the whole movie encapsulated in the ad-spot, which I utterly despise (the trailer for Cast Away was the alltime offender). On the plus side, with these and movies like Shutter Island on the horizon, it looks like there are finally some higher quality movies being released again, that I can look forward to. It’s been a while since I could say that.