Inglourious Basterds – A Movie Review
The works of Quentin Tarantino have provoked much argument amongst film aficionados with regards to their individual merit and collective contribution to modern cinema. With the disciples of Tarantino asserting that he has revolutionised what we, as an audience expect as we are seated in front of the cinema screen and that his works should be revered as the masterpieces they are, other movie-goers tend not to fall for the hype surrounding a new Tarantino release. They do not need elaborately profound or erroneously complex stories to be entertained and simply judge each film as an individual story and not part of the Tarantino mystique. Inglourious Basterds is not Deathproof, but neither is it Pulp Fiction. It is Jackie Brown, enough to satisfy the hardcore fans, without upsetting everyone else too much.
Inglourious Basterds is a war movie with no interest in war. It has no interest in moral complexities or the ambiguous nature of war. It does not wish to confront human suffering, heroism, history or the banality of evil, there is no interest in any subject other than cinema itself. As the film unfolds develops into a dreary movie for boring movie buffs. Many of the characteristics of archetypical characteristics of a Tarantino have been buried under a landmine. There is no passion for pop culture that so often elevated his previous works above the crude and obscene depictions they were often conveying.
If you are expecting a historically accurate tale of the allies’ triumph over the Third Reich and the armies of darkness I’m afraid you will be disappointed. Tarantino dealt with the tricky problem of addressing the historical facts in one singular manner – by ignoring them. With Inglourious Basterds he has created his own revenge driven reality obscured fantasy. The film is organised into five chapters, the first of which opens with Colonel Hands Landa (Christoph Waltz arrived with his men at an isolated French farm house. The Colonel is a notorious Nazi Jew Hunter has arrived to question a local farmer over the allegations that he is hiding local Jewish people. This is the best scene in the whole film. With echoes of Sergio Leone it poses more questions than divulges the direction of the film. The scene finishes on an ambiguous note with the audience unsure of exactly what has occurred or the direction of the journey they are about to take.
We pick up the story three years later when a young Jewish girl Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) who escaped from Landa’s clutches. She is now the proprietor of a cinema in Paris. Dreyfus is wooed by a young Nazi hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). He is the protagonist of a film called Nation’s Pride, a film that Joseph Goebbels intends to premiere at her cinema. This prevents her an ideal opportunity for revenge. Dreyfus knows the gathering of her most sworn enemies is to good an opportunity to pass up. She plots to assassinate the Nazi elite of Goebbels, Goring and Adolf Hitler. However, she doesn’t realise that a group of Jewish – American soldiers known as the Inglourious Basterds have their own ploy for the disposal of the most evil men in the world.
One major flaw with Inglourious Basterds is that it has no obvious voice. It is neither gripping enough to be a serious war drama, nor funny enough to be an amusing spoof. With a group of Nazi killing Jew Tarantino’s premise has many comic possibilities, however the brutal and violent nature of the Basterd’s revenge leaves little opportunity for any plausible comic relief. The team are leads by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) a Southerner with a penchant for killing Germans. He encourages his soldier’s to brutalise their enemy by requesting one hundred Nazi scalps. Indeed Tarantino portrays the Jewish soldiers as the brutes and the Nazi’s as the victims.
The finest moments of the film involve Christop Waltz, who as Colonel Hands Landa steals the film from Brad Pitt. Indeed when Landa is interrogating a suspect Tarantino builds the tension through trivia, transgressions and repetition. He uses the art of conversation as torture and the audience can feel the ticking of the time bomb.
Inglourious Basterds does allow Tarantino a welcome return to form. The film is in essence an enjoyable a Tarantino film, but a larger question beckons. It has been fifteen years since the release of Pulp Fiction and seventeen years since Resevoir Dogs. Is the once unrivalled king of cool fallen foul of a changing cinematic youth culture that leaves even him asking, ‘Just what are these kids on these days?’