Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DVD Review: Inglourious Basterds

Only Quentin Tarantino could take such a grizzly topic as the extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied France during WWII and turn it into one of the funniest films of the year with a feel-good ending. Inglourious Basterds follows a group of American soldiers (the titular Basterds) led by Lt. Aldo Raine (played with a Tennessee drawl by the underrated Brad Pitt) who storm through the Third Reich, killing as many Nazis as possible. Pitt's character demands that his men get him 100 Nazi scalps each. The scalping process and other bursts of violence are classic Tarantino. If you've seen any of his earlier films (especially Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction), you'll know what to expect in the violence department.

What Tarantino adds to his trademark gore and over-the-top violence is a good dose of humor throughout. Christoph Waltz (portraying the main Nazi rival officer), Eli Roth (the director of Hostel and Cabin Fever) and Diane Kruger chip in to keep the film as light as a WWII movie could be. The film clocks in at just over 2.5 hours but the length gives Tarantino a chance to fully flesh out his scenes and utilize his talent for writing witty and engaging dialogue. The key scenes of the movie are played out in long takes that allow the main characters to interact and set up the scenes' climaxes well. In classic Tarantino style, the narrative is split throughout as the story passes between different moments in time and inter-connects amongst the key players of the film. The timeline allows Tarantino to explore a central story from multiple angles and the screenplay is extremely well written from top to bottom.

Tarantino gets some great performances out of his actors. Pitt is hilarious all the way through and turns in a funnier performance than Burn After Reading (especially nailing the scene near the end where he needs to go undercover as an Italian filmmaker). Weitz comes out of nowhere as a sharp adversary to the Basterds. His clever manner of interrogation and sleuthing as a Nazi officer dominates the scenes he's in.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The opening half hour or so is very slow and I do think QT could have made a few cuts to get this thing closer to two hours. That being said, this is one of the best films of the year and earns 4.5 out of 5 JRs. Weitz will deservedly be nominated for Best Supporting Actor and I wouldn't mind seeing Tarantino earn another directing nod. This is probably his best work overall since Pulp Fiction. It's good to see a young director stay relevant and consistent through his career unlike what we've seen happen to a certain Sixth Sense director. The story in Basterds is far more engaging than what I just saw in Avatar. Perhaps James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino could collaborate on a 3D sci-fi adventure that might possibly become the greatest film ever made.

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