Written by J.T. Johnson
World War II and Quentin Tarantino collide in his latest film, “Inglourious Basterds”. The film follows Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his followers as they make a name for themselves scalping Nazis throughout German occupied France. They become known as the Basterds.
The film also follows two other storylines and, like Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” before it, tells the parallel stories as they intersect throughout the film until they finally collide. One of the stories is that of the Nazis, which is told primarily through Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). He has become known as the “Jew Hunter” due to his skills at finding hidden Jews throughout German-occupied countries. The other story follows that of Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent,) a Jew whose family was killed by Landa’s men.
Dreyfus was able to escape from Landa’s clutches and, four years later, is running a theater in Paris. She is constantly being approached by a young Nazi named Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), a sniper who was able to kill 300 American soldiers in Italy. He is also the subject of a new film called “Nation’s Pride” and is able to convince the Nazi high command to change the viewing of the film to Dreyfus’ cinema.
While Dreyfus has her own plans for revenge against the Nazis, the British have learned that Hitler’s highest-ranking officers will be in attendance. They send in one of their agents to work with the Basterds in infiltrating and blowing up the theater along with a German double agent named Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger).
The film has all of director Quentin Tarantino’s skills as a writer. Tarantino feels comfortable sitting around with his characters while they engage in conversations while the action is quick, violent and in the audience’s face. Of course, the film is not told in a linear fashion in the tradition of Tarantino’s earlier films like “Kill Bill”, “Reservoir Dogs”, and “Pulp Fiction”.
This is also the film’s biggest problem. It feels like Quentin Tarantino tried too hard (whether unconsciously or consciously is unknown) to be a Tarantino film instead of trusting himself to make a great movie. The film’s music, as one example, sounds like it came straight out of “Kill Bill”. There was also some unnecessary narration in one scene from Samuel L. Jackson that feels completely out of place while the scene itself is giving an unusual back story to a character that does not really need it.
This means that the film could have been trimmed down. There is way too much set-up for the film’s climax even for a Tarantino film and one feels like they are two steps ahead of the main plot at all times.
Having said all that, Tarantino’s film is not bad overall. There is plenty to watch including Pitt. Aldo Raine has all of the coolest dialogue in the film and is definitely the funniest character. Pitt purposefully plays the character to the extreme and it works every single time.
The scenes containing him and his fellow Basterds are some of the best scenes in the film and are definitely worth seeing. The only Basterd not worth seeing is Eli Roth’s Sergeant Donny Donowitz, also known as the “Bear Jew”. He is not on screen for much of the time to really matter, but Roth has proven here that he is a worse actor than he is director.
One of the best roles in the film, however, is Landa. The character is magnificently played by Waltz. The actor does not choose to play Landa as a psychopathic villain that has crazy eyes and blood on his hands. He always chooses to play Landa as calm and collected while saying horrific things such as comparing Jews to rats.
He’s so calm that you eerily start to relate to him and what he has to say. At least, you do before he orders his men to come in and kill a group of Jews hiding under the floor.
Tarantino has set up scenes that do keep the audience on the edge of their seats while they wait and wonder what is going to happen next. At any moment, something could come along and someone will end up dead. While the main plot is too easy to follow, these scenes are shining examples of Tarantino’s natural talent as a director.
In the end, the film is definitely not Tarantino’s best film but it is not the worst film by a long shot. While the main plot can become boring at times with a very uneven narrative, Pitt and Waltz make the film watchable with a few great action scenes featuring over-the-top violence set in an alternate World War II.