I recently posted my review
of Tarantino's Django Unchained
, and from there I went back to Inglourious Basterds
, which I also hadn't seen, and regarded that fact as something of a crime since I consider myself a fan of QT's work. So I actually started it a couple weeks back, but just finally got the chance to finish it during my quiet time at home earlier this week--thanks to those of you who suggested I take that opportunity. :)
So on to the Basterds. I found this film to be somewhat reminiscent of Pulp Fiction
in that it wove together several converging storylines and sets of characters, jumping around between the stories with a sort of 'chapter' setup. It didn't have as much of the time-jumping PF did so well, but on the whole I thought the setup was similar. Those characters include:
• The titular Basterds, a squad of (mostly) American soldiers, all Jews bent on exacting gruesome vengeance on whatever Nazi Germans they can get their hands on. Their leader is Lt. Aldo Raine (in a somewhat over-stylized performance by Brad Pitt), a rough-hewn, strong-jawed good ol' boy from Tennessee. The Basterds famously and brutally slaughter and scalp Nazis, always leaving one alive (and with a swastika carved into their forehead) to tell the tale.
• Hans Landa (a rather smarmy Christoph Waltz, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role, as he would also for QT's Django Unchained
), an officer in the German SS famous for his ability to find hiding Jews.
• Emmanuelle Mimieux (played with grit by Melanie Laurent), owner of a small Parisian cinema. She's actually a French Jew in hiding--in the early days of the war, her family's hiding spot was rooted out by Hans Landa, and the rest of her family was slaughtered by his men.
• Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a young German soldier who becomes a German war hero after single-handedly shooting scores of American soldiers from his sniper roost in a tower. He meets and becomes infatuated with Emmanuelle, who hates Germans and wants nothing to do with him.
• Bridget von Hammersmark (a lovely Diane Kruger), a famous German film actress who also happens to be a double-agent for the Allies.
As the plot unfolds, we learn that Zoller is starring in a propaganda film about his heroic exploits, and he persuades Goebbels to hold the film's premiere at Emmanuelle's cinema. Emmanuelle sees this as an opportunity to exact her long-awaited vengeance against as many Nazis as she can squeeze into her theater. Meanwhile, Bridget von Hammersmark is working with the Allies to arrange for a few of the Basterds to attend the premiere, where they'll use explosives to take out the Nazi leadership in attendance. The stakes get even higher when it appears Der Führer himself will be in attendance. But will all go to plan? And will too many would-be assassins get in each others' way?
I find it's a little difficult to review this film without spoiling it, but let's just say that the end incorporates a large dose of history-revising fantasy, which might make or break the film for some folks. For me, I must say, it broke it a bit. It was a good ride, but the realism incorporated all along the way, such as it is, is tossed out the window at the climax, and for me it left a slightly bitter taste. All film is fantasy to an extent, of course, and liberties are taken with historical accuracy in every film. But in this case it's an extreme liberty which changes history entirely, and that was just tough to swallow for me. Even if it is damn satisfying to watch. :)
Otherwise, it's a solid film--well-written, well-acted, and beautifully filmed. In a Tarantino film we expect violence, of course, and here we are not disappointed. I could, I will say, have done without the scalping, because eww. But the Basterds are gleeful in their righteous vengeance against all things (and persons) Nazi, and it's fun to watch. I'd note also that in his quest for general accuracy, much of the film's dialogue takes place in French and German. It's realistic, of course, but it's a choice to be noted in case you don't like subtitles.
So my verdict.. Inglourious Basterds
is a solid film, fun to watch, and deserves a good spot in Tarantino's oeuvre, but his choice to make it a historical fantasy sours it a bit in my book. I'd give it a 47 on my 64-point scale.