Inglourious Basterds 
Having witness the steady decline in Quentin Tarantino’s work since Pulp Fiction, I was a little hesitant about watching this film. Jackie Brown was, in my opinion only a success because it’s an Elmore Leonard story that any half decent director can foster into a success. Out of Sight is a good example, Soderbergh did a great job and made JLo look interesting. Get Shorty is another success, done by Barry “Who?”
Sonnenfeld. The counter argument here would be Be Cool, Get Shorty’s sequel, which F. Gary Gary managed to turn into a turd, albeit an entertaining one. — thank you, Vince.
So with Tarantino’s unpredictable performance as a writer/director, compounded by the fact that Inglourious Basterds (IB) was an alternate take on the second world war, something I have found to be really sensitive to, I just didn’t give IB much chance to amaze me. I was fairly certain it would entertain me, but I just wasn’t sure it would amaze me. And then there was the opening scene and I had to readjust my expectations.
The beautiful countryside of southern France. Perrier LaPadite (Menochet), a dairy (?) farmer with a small farm and three stunningly beautiful daughters, finds being visited by Col. Hans Landa (Waltz) an officer for the SS charged with finding and capturing any fugitive Jews in France. The scene starts calm, between an overly polite and cheerful Landa and the calm and strong LaPadite. You get the feeling that Landa is not cut out for the brutal work he’s doing with the air of a bureaucrat, and you feel that LaPadite is a man as solid and as strong as the rock that makes up the jagged French coastline. You watch him cooly, calmly answer each of the sociopathically cheerful Nazi’s questions and you think; “this man will never bend, will never break or give in” and you actually start worrying about the fate of his beautiful daughters as the underlying tension between the two rises, as you feel there is no other outcome to this meeting than a violent one.
The rest of the film isn’t nearly as consistently great as the opening scene, but there are some beautiful, moving, funny and brutal scenes that make this film absolutely worth watching. Is Tarantino back? I can’t say for sure, but this is definitely a step in the right direction on the road to recovery of his once surprisingly fresh style of writing and directing. I dunno, perhaps it’s just that tribute thing he’s been doing that irked me.
The story is a rather simple one — well, actually, there are two stories that merge into one right near the end. A group of Jews are assembled to wreak havoc and go on a terror spree behind enemy lines, killing as many Nazis as possible in the most brutal way, each disfigured corpse they leave behind adding to the growing legend of “the basterds.” (Why Tarantino purposefully misspelled the title of the film he will not reveal.) When they find out that all the top National Socialist officials, including Adolf Hitler himself, will attend a premiere of a new Nazi propaganda film in Paris, France, the allied command sees it as a great opportunity to sever the head of the Nazi beast once and for all.
Brad Pitt in the role of the ultra-manly, not too subtle military man and Nazi hater Aldo Raine was disappointing since they completely under-utilized the potential performance Pitt can bring to the table.
I got the feeling that much of Aldo “The Apache” Raine’s backstory got lost on the editing room floor to make sure they could shoe-horn the film into the 150 or so minutes it ended up lasting. Where did he get that massive scar on his neck, for instance?
I was impressed with what I saw of Stiglitz (Schweiger), German officer turned Nazi killer, one of the few non-Jews in the Basterds.
Til Schweiger has such an iconic, bad-ass face that he fits his sociopathic role rather well. I’ve been a fan of his ever since he played one of the replacement killers in Replacement Killers.
The cold hearted Shoshanna (Laurent) who lives in Nazi occupied Paris as an undercover Jew who operates a cinema and finds an opportunity to get revenge for her family’s death is a good guy you can root for, while Sgt. Donnie “The Bearjew” Donnowitz (Roth) is a brutal specimen of Jewish retribution as he prefers to club Nazis to death with his battleworn Louisville slugger that people might have a harder time rooting for. Another honorable mention should go to Diane Kruger as the German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark, who’s cool for the name alone and plays a double agent helping the basterds perform their mission. She’s charismatic incarnate, which is really how actors in that age must’ve been.
And then there is the villain of the film, Col. Hans Landa, portrayed masterfully by German actor Christoph Waltz, who, in my opinion, absolutely steals the show with his razorsharp acting and rather eccentric character. This character keeps intriguing and entertaining from the opening scene of the film, which I described above to the finale. He is so outside of the normal portrayal of an SS officer that you are almost suckered into thinking that he’s the main attraction, the hero of the story. Somehow, some way, Waltz and Tarantino make you care for and like this unlikeable Nazi.
With all the Jewish retribution portrayed in the film, and not in the most heroic of ways either, I wonder what the Jewish liga thought of this film, considering how it could be argued that the Jews are portrayed as the aggressors which makes them look worse than they did in the Passion of the Christ. I guess Tarantino might avoid their wrath because he finally lifted their victimhood a little bit, if only for two-and-a-half hours. I’ve not made up my mind about how I feel.
Anyway, go and see the film, if only to see the Jews kick ass for a change, or do it for Waltz’ outstanding performance.