Sunday, 16 August 2009

Of Inglourious Basterds

You know that feeling you get when you come out of a really good film? I got that with Inglourious Basterds. It wasn't perfect by any means. But damn if it wasn't fun. It might not be quite as good as my current film of the year, The Wrestler, but heck not much could be. However I get the feeling that if I make a big deal out of this film then it'll come back and bite me on the ass, mostly due to length. I know people who didn't enjoy Benjamin Button and The Dark Knight due to their length, but all I have to say is that I watched all three films in perfect conditions and therefore came out enjoying. If you didn't enjoy them then it probably comes down to viewing conditions.

This is Quentin Tarantino's latest film. If you didn't realise he directed the near perfect Pulp Fiction, the heist film set after film Reservoir Dogs, kung-fu epic Kill Bill and the second half of Grindhouse, Death Proof. Whilst Death Proof wasn't nearly as good as his early work, Inglourious Basterds is. It isn't as good as Pulp Fiction (but not much is) but I would say it is about as good as Reservoir Dogs. I would definitely say it's best film in ages and features all his trademarks. His impeccable ear for film music, trademarks such as what can only be described as a glorious use of fonts when it comes to credits and chapter titles and the trademark Tarantino dialogue. Tarantino is a word-smith, much like Shakespeare he has a glorious way with words and knows just how to write a conversation without it seeming boring. Death Proof is still a good film and the majority of it is people talking in a bar, not many directors can say that. He's a director I just love to have let his actors talk, much like Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon. However Tarantino is probably a better all round director than them, but all three have done amazing work. Basterds also includes a lot of his normal flourishes. Switching viewpoints, different directing styles. But honestly can you ever get enough of just how visual a director he is?

So onto the Basterds. Surprisingly, midway through this film I realised that I have seen all three of Brad Pitt's latest films in a cinema (and massively enjoyed his four latest movies). Now it might almost become a running joke that I think Brad Pitt is massively talented as an actor, and honestly he is. Watch 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Benjamin Button or Jesse James and try and disagree with me. The guy is hugely talented and I think gets too much bad press because of how sexy he is perceived to be by members of the fairer sex and his relationships with both Jennifer Anniston and Angelina Jolie. Whilst Inglourious Basterds isn't his best film, the role is a bit more like his role in Burn After Reading in terms of how funny it is. Surprisingly for all the adverts this film is an ensemble piece and Brad isn't the main attraction, but we'll get to that later. He isn't on screen as much as you'd think but when he is he shines albeit not as strongly as some previous endeavors.

Well I hear you ask what is the main attraction of the movie? Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa. Honestly this guy stole every scene he was in. Whilst I'm fairly sure I heard a couple of dips in accent (he's an Austrian who lives in London) the guy brings an energy that is welcomed. He's equal parts funny and scary. He plays a German nicknamed the Jew Hunter and is the one character who connects all the different threads of the story. Honestly if you nothing else about this movie excites you, then realise that this just might be an Oscar-worthy performance. He plays a villain...kind of. By the end of the film it really turns things on their head in respects to this guy, although what happens to him in the end is equal parts gruesome and funny. If the fact it's a Tarantino movie or that it has Brad Pitt isn't enough to grab your attention, go just to see this performance. Just like Heath Ledger last year and Javier Bardem in 2007, this villainous performance I can really get behind. All three have brought astounding nuanced villains to the screen perfectly. Oscar worthy surely (I wasn't wrong with the last two).

Of course this being an ensemble I couldn't forget many of the other great performances in the film. Eli Roth (director of Hostel) as the Bear Jew prompts one of the more shocking scenes of the movie (it involves a baseball bat), it's just a shame the intrigue of the character is ruined when he talks like a typical American. Til Schweiger gets the greatest introduction ever in film history which I will not ruin but will say it features an awesome montage and I was greatly upset that he did receive more screen time because prompted many laughs just with facial expressions (especially the bar scene). Michael Fassbender is great as Archie Hicox, a role originally meant for Simon Pegg, whilst I'm sure Pegg would have been great I can't help but feel that Fassbender took the role and ran with it. Finally both Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger are great as the female leads, particularly Laurent*.

The story of this movie is quite definitely set in an alternate World War 2 for reasons which will become abundantly clear towards the films climax. Honestly the film is kind of a war film but very much a Tarantino war film in the fact that most of it is dialogue. When action breaks out it is very well done but only really occurs at two moments in the film. However the final action is amazing and very well done. The majority of the movie is just building up the tension and letting the characters talk. Tarantino isn't quite as adept as building up tension as other directors such as the Coen Brothers but particularly in the first Chapter of the movie he does it wonderfully when he in his own words he's "pulled the elastic band so tight it's about to break". Really the movie is all about building up to moments of violence and luckily when they do happen they're suitably graphic (it's an 18 after all). The moments are definitely cringe worthy and elicited groans from the audience in the cinema when we saw them and ranged from scalping, bullet holes, baseball bats to the head and the final shots of the film which was honestly a nigh on perfect way to end the film.

Overall this is another superb film from Tarantino. Whilst many will dislike it because of it's length, I honestly didn't feel it. It's equal parts funny and gripping and mixes the two perfectly. It features everything that makes a Tarantino film so great, in particular his dialogue and use of music and just add to some of the reasons why he's one of the best and most visionary directors in the business. He manages to get an amazing performance out of the real star of this movie in the form of Christoph Waltz who is easily worth the price of admission. Whilst the movie isn't perfect, you can't help but feel this isn't the true version of the film with some scenes quite definitely being cut and some things being extremely vaguely hinted at (the final outcome of four of the Basterds). Whilst I would love to see a director's cut, what stands at the moment is a more than worthy movie.

I want to reiterate the movie is looong. Almost three hours long to be exact. Make sure you're in the mood to see and not just seeing because it's apparently a good film. Go see it because you want to, so we don't have to endure your bitching about how you didn't enjoy what is a great film. This movie isn't for everyone but Tarantino never is. If you don't like the man's style avoid it. If you do, you'll probably love it, I went with three friends and we all loved it. Honestly there are people who don't like his style, but I really don't think I'd want to get to know you if you don't appreciate how talented he is and how great this film really is.

Tarantino provides his own unique take on war film that is an entirely new beast that is hugely reverent to the cinema of the past (particularly films like the Dirty Dozen). It combines so many elements and all Tarantino's flourishes and it makes it hugely enjoyable. It's funny, it's tense and it's action packed. If you love good movies then do yourself a favour and see this movie, definitely one of the summers best.


*Then there's BJ Novak (Ryan in The Office), I thought he'd been taken away for what could have been essentially a cameo, but luckily his role expands towards the end along with another Basterd named Omar who gets quite possible the best five seconds of the entire movie with one slow motion running sequence.

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