Screen Reviews
Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

directed by Quentin Tarantino

starring Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger

Universal

Quentin Tarantino is a guilty man.

Guilty of operating a shell game, of performing sleight-of-hand on an unsuspecting, captive audience.

Guilty of orchestrating a cinematic bait-and-switch on a grand scale.

Inglourious Basterds

From watching the trailers for Inglorious Basterds, one with a passing knowledge of film history – and of Mr. Tarantino’s previous work – could easily infer that his new WWII epic is an updated, ultraviolent, skewed version of say, The Dirty Dozen or Kelly’s Heroes. To the Tarantino fan, a movie about a Bowie knife-totin’, direct descendant of Jim Bridger (Brad Pitt) leading a pick-up squad of Jewish soldiers on a mission to gleefully whack a bunch of Nazis in pre-D-Day France is a bit salivating.

Tarantino is counting on you making this reasonable assumption, like an angler flashing a shiny lure in front of an unsuspecting bass. The reality is, that ingenious commercial pretty much contains every scene the scalp-takin’ Basterds are in; watching another two hours and twenty-nine minutes of filler is unnecessary. You see, Inglourious Basterds is really about a French farm girl-turned theater owner/operator (Melanie Laurent) who stumbles upon an opportunity to avenge her slaughtered family.

Inglourious Basterds

The film’s namesake – almost completely devoid of character development – is not even the common element, the glue keeping this dud grenade together. That role is left to actor Christoph Waltz, whose Waffen-SS Colonel Landa, “the Jew Hunter,” almost saves Tarantino’s bacon. Waltz is a tour de force as a dyed-in-the-wool classic villain, a cunning, ultra-courteous predator with a cat-and-his-canary smile.

A two-out-of-three combination of Waltz, Pitt, or Laurent would have been a winning formula. Remove the Basterds’ almost-token presence, re-allocate their too-brief screen time to the hunter-and-the hunted storyline, and bingo! you’ve got a really engrossing movie. Erase Laurent, or reduce her role to a memorable incidental character, and voila! there’s that revamped Dirty Dozen scenario Tarantino teases us with.

Inglourious Basterds

Instead, the director has presented his loyal fans with a screwy, infuriating mess that – Col. Landa’s presence aside – is almost as godawfully boring as the first half of Death Proof. Yes, one of Tarantino’s trademarks is intertwining storylines, but it just doesn’t work here; laborious scenes come off as abandoned or discarded in the end, rather than stepping-stones in the plot.

Adding insult to injury, Inglourious Basterds resembles a schizophrenic film student’s project reel, a bewildering array – not a blend – of influential styles. The film begins as a spaghetti western (surprise, surprise) set in WWII, complete with theme music; then, it turns into a War-era Hitchcock thriller. Up next, a vivid, lingering series of Lynchian scenes, then some Peckinpah and de Palma. On and on the Tarantino Self-Indulgent Express meanders, to a jumbled aburdist-fantasy climax.

Quite frankly, the movie doesn’t deserve any more commentary than this. Watch it at your own risk of regret.

Inglourious Basterds

With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino has used his well-deserved Get Out of Jail Free card. His next offering had better be a winner, or at least a film that’s more respectful of its audience.

Or else.

Inglourious Basterds: http://inglouriousbasterds-movie.com/


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