Possibly, for me, Quentin Tarantino’s finest. I know, this is a contestable statement when you consider the succinct brilliance of Reservoir Dogs and the ground breaking Pulp Fiction, but the historical beauty entwined with the director’s novel instinct and eye makes this an excellent film. I am quite willing to suffer any protest you may have on these grounds as I believe I could argue my case quite happily – yes there are the stereotypical Tarantino gun fights and a touch of necessary gore, but their is a grace and delicacy to this film which doesn’t quite make it into the gangster stylings or bridal revenge of previous productions.
Inglourious Basterds is a tale which I so wish were true – I can dream that elements of it are indeed based on fact, but I think it may be wishful thinking! Headed up by ruthless, yet loveable, oh-so-American, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (a part Apache Indian, Nazi-hunter from Tennessee) a team of cut-throat Jews from all walks of life, spread threat and fear throughout occupied France. Tall tales, myths and legends of this band of warriors spread throughout Europe, reaching the ears of Hitler himself; tales of Aldo the Apache, the Bear Jew and their scalping rituals which leave whole units of German soldiers pummelled to death in the most horrific of fashions. But there is little fabrication to the Chinese whispers, those who somehow manage to live to tell the tale only do so after a suitable disfiguration.
This super-secret team of vigilantes, along with other undercover agents, plot the downfall of all World War Two downfalls; the ultimate terrorist act which would change the world forever. However, they are not the only ones on the path of revenge for under the Nazi reign of terror, precious few escaped without a sense of bitter vengeance bubbling beneath the skin.
Brad Pitt is cast superbly as Aldo the Apache, the no-nonsense Lieutenant who helps to bring the lighter side (if there can be one) to the fore. He is wonderful, but then again when has Brad Pitt not been perfectly cast – I think my favourite is still Mickey the Irish boxer in Snatch! This film is certainly not designed to be a comedy, to be so would just be an insult to be honest, but his lines and looks and American-isms are carefully placed and beautifully timed. When watching this film, I just need you to remember that the Lieutenant is the most advanced Italian speaker in the whole squad. You could almost suggest he is fluent! Possibly one of my favourite moments. What I really liked about this casting though is there is no pretence – Brad Pitt is now at that age where he has a choice; he can embrace his beauty and changing looks or do as so many others have done and pave over the fact that he may not be quite as pretty as he once was. Thankfully, he has shown his age in this film, shown those broken lines around his eyes, the wrinkles around his face. He has got the courage to portray his character realistically with life and work written into every crease. And which I think makes him even more adorable.
But the whole film is stolen by an actor I had not encountered before, Christoph Waltz. The Austrian born actor plays Colonel Hans Landa, the most renowned Jew hunter in all of Nazi Germany. Adorned with a charismatic smile, manners and charm, Landa (The Hunter) is chilling. The opening chapter is one of the most ominous beginnings to a film I have ever seen, and it is entirely his doing. The slow pace of some scenes mirror his casual nature perfectly, his devilish stare and ruthless efficiency. He is quite frankly the stuff of nightmares; not a man who would ever raise his voice or crack a frown, but hugely intelligent with looks that make you realise he has you, he knows all, you are done. There is no escape from Hans Landa and no one more incredible than Christoph Waltz. I understand that he is to play Cardinal Richelieu in a forth coming Musketeer’s movie – not that I need to see another incarnation of D’Artagnan, but I shall be wanting to watch just to see how Waltz makes the Cardinal even more menacing.
The film is not without is sultry screen sirens, elegant and glamorous as only women of the 1940’s can look. Both blonde bomb shells, Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger add the right amount of sizzle and stir to the proceedings. Their roles are the personification of the grace and beauty within this film. Stylish shots, elegant angles, subtlety and silence all marry with the astonishing costume and scenery. It is so very clearly a work of passion, a long lost love toiled over and obsessed about – so much more so than other Tarantino films (in my humble opinion). I adore the fact that the vast majority of the film is spoken in either French or German (and Italian, of sorts) with subtitles. Obviously, English is spoken in places, but the authenticity is not ruined. I am so so so pleased that they did not settle for American’s trying to be European with tremendously awful accents. No, Tarantino kept the intelligence quota of his audience in line with that of his screenplay and gave both the film and watcher more credit than some big blockbusters.
Clearly this cannot just be an out and out winner. Steve’s argument is that, yet again, Tarantino does not know how to edit. There are some scenes which could do with being shortened and some clipped images which are just unnecessary. Its as if Tarantino, in places, is still trying to build suspense and character, but he has already done such a stunning job of this in previous scenes that the purpose is very much surplus. It is a life’s work, written and re-written countless times, but this being the case, places may come across a little precious and fussy – his vision obviously not succinctly playing to the camera. But having said all this, I did not really mind the additional fluff but it does push the running time to fairly lengthy 153 minutes for a story which could be told in under two hours. I didn’t really feel the length perhaps because I was sat on the sofa rather than in the cinema but more likely due to the fact that this is a rollicking good film, plenty to get your teeth into – and for £4 at Asda, we couldn’t have had better value for money!
I am going to post the two main trailers for the film below, however, neither of which give the true essence of the film – the slow terror and delicacy is hardly trailer-handy. So don’t be put off if you are squeamish, if you enjoy classy 40’s styled films, if you enjoy war films, if you enjoy shoot-em up’s, pretty much if you have any fondness of cinema what so ever, you should give this film a go!