Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Inglourious Basterds review

Typically, I don't write reviews for movies that I watch at home. But I've been watching a lot of films lately, and I figured that I would post some reviews of the films that I'm watching right now. One of those films was Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Yes, both of the words in the title are spelled incorrectly. That's just how Tarantino did it. Anyways, this film was released in 2009 to much fanfare. It was Tarantino's first feature since Kill Bill: Volume 2, and had an all-star cast led by Brad Pitt. The film became a box office success and was nominated for eight Oscars, with a win for Christoph Waltz. In the years since, Basterds has become a classic. And deservedly so. This is a film that will puzzle you initially, but if you think about the film enough, you will release the true quality of what you just watched. Basterds is a myriad of suspenseful drama, bloody revenge fantasy, and true comic hilarity. It is two and a half of hours of pure cinema, with excellent performances across the board. In some ways, this movie doubles as a talkier, more violent version of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Read interviews with Steven Spielberg and you'll see what I mean.

Inglourious Basterds is a linear narrative, unlike some of Tarantino's other films (Pulp Fiction). However, that doesn't mean that it is a straightforward narrative. Inglourious features two parallel stories: the story of a Jewish girl named Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) and the story of a Jewish-American fighting unit called the Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Shosanna operates a movie theater in France after a narrow escape from Nazi Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Raine and his team of Basterds fight Nazis behind enemy lines with brutal tactics that frustrate Hitler and his inner circle. The two stories will converge during the premiere of a German propaganda film starring war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) at Shosanna's theater. The premiere becomes a site of interest for both Raine and British Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender). Why? Let's just say that some famous faces will be attending that premiere.

Inglourious Basterds is a film that puzzled me at first. I enjoyed it throughout, but I could never fully grasp it. It's been about a week and a half since I watched it now, and I can certainly say that it will go down as one of my top fifty favorite films. If you want a story about the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, you won't find it here. Instead, you'll find something more akin to Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. Many critics and even Spielberg himself have noted that the first Indiana Jones film seems like Spielberg enacting revenge on the Nazis. Inglourious Basterds is very much a revenge fantasy for anyone who's ever wanted to see the Nazis get theirs. The film has a lot of deplorable violence and the tactics of the Basterds and Shosanna can be questioned, but there's no denying that this is a highly entertaining revisionist history film.

The performances are spectacular across the board. This is slightly less profane Tarantino, but the dialogue is still crackling. Brad Pitt delivers a great lead performance. His character is charismatic with a deep southern accent and he certainly has some of the best scenes in the film. Christoph Waltz also delivers a stunning performance, but he is not in the film as much as you would expect. Melanie Laurent is also great as Shosanna, and she puts some needed emotion into the film amid all the comical dialogue and brutal carnage. The rest of the ensemble is too vast for me to make a specific mention of them all. But they are all quite spectacular.

The direction is also quite fantastic. Tarantino is famous for his fast and furious dialogue that is peppered with quotes, movie references and profanity, but here, his direction is as masterful as the dialogue is crackling. This is such a well directed movie. The film has two scenes that jump out at me as being fantastically directed. The first scene of the movie between Christoph Waltz and Denis Menochet, a man protecting a Jewish family, is a feat of directing. It is packed with suspense and sucks you into the film immediately. Also, there is a scene in a bar between several characters later in the film. I was tense throughout the entire scene and it climaxes with a burst of violence that is shocking, even by the standards of this film. All in all, a masterfully directed film that is vibrant, beautiful, entertaining and well-written.

What else can I say? Out of all the films that I have seen over the last week and a half (including classics such as The Thing, Full Metal Jacket and V for Vendetta), this film has stuck with me the most. It is a beautifully made film that is well-written, well-directed and well-edited. It features several entertaining and suspenseful action scenes and a ton of great performances. This is the only Tarantino film I have seen in its entirety, but if the rest of his catalog is just as good as this, I'm in for a treat.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                           (10/10)

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