Inglourious Basterds


(Universal, 2009)

by Paul Stephenson

I hate film reviewers sometimes. So often you find one that you think is going to match your tastes and then they go and fuck it all up with one review, and you’re left as a reader adrift in a sea of useless, tasteless opinion. I most often realise this around the time that a new Quentin Tarantino film comes out.

According to virtually every film critic out there, the arrival of a new Tarantino film is no longer a cause for celebration. Instead it provides a chance to snipe at that once great-white-hope of Hollywood, to malign the waste of such prodigious talent that it could create the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, the pity being that he now spends his time making the likes of Death Proof and this, his sixth or seventh film, depending on how you look at it.

Ever since Jackie Brown, which did the very same critics who now hold it up as his masterpiece deride (Pulp Fiction? So passé.) these cretinous fools have been stepping up to maul Tarantino. But to do so is to entirely miss the point. Quentin makes brash, silly, flawed but utterly brilliant movies about nothing. Nothing and everything, wrapped in a big ball of violence. And so it is with Inglorious Basterds, which seems to be Tarantino’s attempt to wrap every type of film ever made into one sprawling western set in Nazi occupied France.

The plot hinges around several plots to exterminate the Nazi high command as they watch the premiere of ‘Nation’s Pride,’ a film modelled as a ‘Triumph Of The Will’
Propaganda flick. Set against this is the Jewish revenge fantasy played out by Brad Pitt’s death squad of Jewish American ‘Basterds’ who scalp their way implausibly through half the Nazi army.

For all their efforts though, it is not them at the core of this film. This fate is reserved for Jewish cinema owner Emmanuelle Mimieux, played with delicate restraint by Mélanie Laurent, and the German ‘Jew Hunter’ SS Colonel Hans Landa, played perfectly by Christoph Waltz, in what has to be the best cinematic bad guy since Heath Ledger plastered himself with white make up. His character is so utterly real and horrifying, and yet charming and subtle and funny. You cannot help but root for him, even knowing the horrible things he is capable of.

Throughout the film the utterly preposterous plot is anchored perfectly by the kind of dialogue scenes that we have now come to expect as standard from Tarantino. One bar-set scene in particular may his most natural and yet otherworldly writing since Hopper and Walken faced each other in True Romance. And as for the violence, it’s certainly there, an ever present threat that occasionally tumbles out in scenes that are stomach churning and yet hilarious at the same time.

There is no doubt that this is a flawed film. The plot is ridiculous, and given its author, surprisingly simplistic. The characters, while perfectly formed and fleshed, are all rather unsympathetic, and the ending is, in a word, daft. But then it’s the rule of a reviewer to point these things out. The problem is that when you focus so hard on the faults, you miss what is otherwise glaringly obvious, which is that this is two and a half hours of undiluted and uncaged lunatic brilliance, which if you let it will keep you hooked in from start to finish.

Realistically, what you need to ask yourself is this: Do I enjoy the works of one Mr Quentin Tarantino? If the answer to this is yes, then make sure to get this DVD, it will not disappoint. The man is clearly utterly unconcerned by how his films are perceived, and throughout this film you get the sense of a man feeding his own imagination, and we all get to see the utterly unhinged results.


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