Inglourious Basterds

Rating *****

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Not everybody likes Quentin Tarantino… or his films. I actually met him briefly in 2007. He came across as friendly, genuinely enthutiastic, and surprisingly humble for such a notorious motormouth tooter of his own horn. He shook my hand energetically (using both of his hands) and was more than happy to sign a copy of the Death Proof screenplay. As fuel for my own film making ambition it reads “James, w/love, good luck! Quentin” But arse-kissing aside, I’m not a blind devotee. In recent years the 90’s “wonder-kid” accolades dried up, replaced by stinging criticism that he had become a parody of himself. At times his trademark dialogue felt increasingly forced, more like the work of a fan-boy than the master himself. However, I still enjoyed Kill Bill and Death Proof as they showcased different and considerable strengths. Mainly that this guy can really shoot an action scene! And he does it without green screens or digital doubles, just great angles, fluid choreography, and genuinely risky stunts. You know, the proper tools of genre cinema.

Where as early masterpieces like Pulp Fiction felt like they took place in our reality, Kill Bill was intentionally set in parallel cinematic universe. When Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield catch a movie, this is what they would watch. I was anxious to discover where Inglourious Basterds would sit on this reality scale. Turns out, it sits comfortably in the middle, and it’s all the better for it. The two worlds converge with sublime results. The script is razor sharp, funny, and shocking, with inspired dialogue delivered by fully rounded and diverse characters you’ll really care about. Perfomances across the board are excellent. especially Christoph Waltz as nazi officer Col. Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa. Once again, Tarantino has cherry picked an obscure actor then elevated him to instant stardom and iconic status. In the coming months we should expect Waltz to hunt down awards with ruthless efficiency, Hans Landa would be proud. This is the most rewarding screen villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker, credit where credit is Jew! Brad Pitt also deserves kudos for his comic timing as Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine. At one point he attempts to go undercover as an Italian film maker, quite a challenge for this gravely voiced Tennessee native to pull of an “Eye-talian” accent. Pitt’s expressions in this scene are priceless, clearly channeling Marlon Brando in The Godfather.

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Being a marriage of both ends of the Tarantino spectrum, there are several times where we slip in to questionable homage/gimmick mode. At one point he even uses the “Pussy Wagon” font while throwing a Sam Jackson voiceover into the mix! It threatens to bring the whole film crashing through the fourth wall  and descend into the most violent episode of “Allo ‘Allo!” you’ve ever seen. However, these are minor bumps in the road to glory. I loved the story significance of film itself, depicted as a precious commodity with the potential to change the course of history. Most impressively, Tarantino applies this notion so skilfully it never feels like a tacked on anorak-pleaser. After the fairly straightforward revenge quest in Kill Bill, I wasn’t expecting the plot to offer so many rewarding twists and fascinating sub plots. Throughout it’s first half, Basterds skillfully prepares all the main ingredients for a delicious 4 course blow-out banquet of a finale. It eclipses KB’s House of Blue Leaves set piece through tension, pathos, and pure satisfaction. I won’t spoil it by revealing specific details, but it surely ranks as one of the most satisfying and expertly crafted endings ever! The powerful imagery and subtext converge to become a cathartic juggernaut of pure entertainment. I was dosed up on a celluliod sugarrush of joy. I wont reveal the closing line of dialgoue, or the character who delivers it, but I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment. It’s his best work since Pulp Fiction and possibly in a moment of madness I’d rank it not just as an equal, but superior! Welcome back Quentin you glorious basterd!

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~ by thewholebuffalo on August 24, 2009.

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