Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds

directed by Quentin Tarantino

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Shithouse

    A darling love story with engaging characters and one of the worst titles ever.

  • Too Much and Never Enough
    Too Much and Never Enough

    One families indifference and abandonment gave America its greatest failure. Mary Trump explains how.

  • Summerland

    In rural England, a cranky woman bonds with and evacuee boy and uncovers a strange connection to her past.

  • Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
    Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

    These geniuses of early comedy finally get the presentation they are due in this Blu-ray edition.

  • Four-Letter Words
    Four-Letter Words

    No need to worry about offending delicate sensibilities with this playlist. We’re not talking about profanity, so just take the title at face value.

  • A Genesis In My Bed
    A Genesis In My Bed

    Former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett shares his life story in his story in an engaging and honest memoir. Reading his story feels like hanging out with a friend who’s interested in sharing how he felt living these experiences.

  • The Jayhawks
    The Jayhawks

    XOXO (Sham/Thirty Tigers). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • 18 to Party
    18 to Party

    When you’re in 8th grade, sneaking into a bar is way cooler than it is when you’re 40.

  • Adam

    A pregnant woman finds a home in Casablanca.

  • 2020 on Fire
    2020 on Fire

    Sound Salvation takes on current events with a playlist addressing the current fight for racial and social justice in America and the battles playing out in the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

From the Archives