Quick Hit: One of the most mesmerizing openings in film, entertaining characters, it’s entertaining but fails to attain the highest status because of plot pacing.
When I think of Inglorious Basterds a few select things come immediately to mind. The first is Christof Waltz’s amazing opening performance. The second is “Bear Jew” and the third is “Bawnjorno”.
This film is watchable, even if it fails to be considered a “Great” movie.
This movie follows several characters during WWII. One is a group of Jewish Nazi killers (pronounced Nat-zi, mind you) led by Lietenaunt Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is attempting to kill a bunch of Nazi leaders. Another is Shoshanna, who first escapes from death in the first scene, to become a cinema owner later in life. She has been plotting revenge for years, and may just now have her chance.
Part of the fun in this film is watching the two stories come together. You know that eventually all the paths will have to cross, and it is Tarantino’s intricate storytelling hand that guides us there. He does a masterful job at constructing dialogue that feels real (though at times campy, see below), and you can’t help but enjoy the characters. There are two definitive stand-outs though, one I alluded to in the opening (well, actually I alluded to both).
Let’s talk about Christof Waltz. I wouldn’t think too many people had heard of him before this movie. His portrayal of Colonel Hans Landa sets the stage for the entire movie. When he is having his first conversation with Mr. LaPadite, you can feel the tension creeping in. You feel almost as if it’s a cat playing with a mouse, batting it slowly back and forth between its paws. When he finally loses his smiling exterior, a chill bolts down your spine, and you know that this “Jew Hunter” is the real deal. He won a well-deserved Oscar for this role. I would recommend this opening sequence for one of the best opening scenes in all movies.
The second is Brad Pitt. His filmography is such a fantastic mix of intense dramas, often period ones (Allied, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and awesome comedic roles that border exceptional (Inglorious Basterds, Burn After Reading). Here, I can’t get over his accent and delivery with all of his lines. He consistently sticks with the same schtick throughout the film, and it’s just on the edge of hammy. In fact, a lot of his lines are hammy – “That means I got a little Injun in me” “I want my scalps” etc, lie on that tightrope thin line between being too much for everyone, and being fun enough to keep you smiling throughout. In the hands of a less capable actor, the role would have been a failure. Instead, Lt. Aldo Raine falls in movie history as one of the most memorable line spouters out there. I just always fall back and reflect on how fun it must have been to pretend in French – Bawnjorno. The Best.
My main problem with the film (really, my only one) is that at times it falls to an absolute crawl, particularly in the middle act. This is often a problem with Tarantino, as he is often off to the races in movies quickly, then falls back to explain everything. I’m all for a slow burn type of film, but the middle sequences seem to be there for little to no purpose besides to give our actors more time to eat up the screen.
Overall, I think Basterds is a good film, and it’s definitely memorable. If anything, watch it for the two performances. I’m going to give it a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"