Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
In Nazi occupied France, young Jewish refugee Shosanna Dreyfus witnesses the slaughter of her family by Colonel Hans Landa. Narrowly escaping with her life, she plots her revenge several years later when German war hero Fredrick Zoller takes a rapid interest in her and arranges an illustrious movie premiere at the theater she now runs. With the promise of every major Nazi officer in attendance, the event catches the attention of the "Basterds", a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by the ruthless Lt. Aldo Raine. As the relentless executioners advance and the conspiring young girl's plans are set in motion, their paths will cross for a fateful evening that will shake the very annals of history.
A mark of a distinctive filmmaker is that rarely can one discuss a film by Quentin Tarentino without mentioning his name within the first few seconds of the discussion. He has created his own imprimatur that instantly tells you what type of film you are in for when you sit in your seat and the curtain goes up. This one will not disappoint. Enough gore to fill several back haulers; over the top graphics that literally point you to key screen elements (like "this is a bad guy"); larger than life characters that are even larger than larger than life; funky mood music; a departure from the usual three act cinema experience; and Chester Gould-like use of bold, primary colors. All of this is wrapped up in a long movie that entertains like a good comic book. Oh, the storyline. The only thing that historically matters is that the setting is the Nazi occupation of France during WWII, and it involves a band of Jewish Nazi-hunters who endeavor to execute a brilliant scheme to topple the Third Reich and end the war early. Enough pseudo-history, it's a bad guys versus good guys thing. Guess who wins?
Inglourious Basterds is a typical Quentin Tarantino film - characterized by excellent casting, acting, and directing, a compelling script that is creatively mixes humor with utter horrific violence without being campy, wonderful cinematography and sound, and an innovative movie style. Christopher Waltz as Nazi Col. Hans Landa is excellent as the de facto star of the movie (he did get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), and is in just about every scene. Tarantino's script really comes alive when he is on screen. Brad Pitt, as U.S.A. Lt. Alto Raine, head of the Nazi Killing elite squad, is a hoot with his hillbilly accent and swaggering invincible air. Melanie Laurent has a great role as Shosanna Dreyfus, a Jewish movie theater owner whose path crosses with the infamous, and much hated by her, Col. Landa several times. And Diane Kruger as famous German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark, secretly a Resistance fighter is quite entertaining and sometimes over the top. As is typical with Tarantino scripts, the story rambles around in unexpected directions - in this case rewriting WW II Nazi downfall history with scenes that have just fascinating dialog. Character development comes secondary to captivating dialog punctuated by sudden graphic violence that makes you momentarily grimace. The 2.5 hour story is broken down into logical chapters running parallel stories, that eventually overlap at the end. Of course the cinematography and soundtrack are top notch, as is the case with most all taratino productions. I'd say this is one of Tarantino's better movies and worth a DVD rental for escape type entertainment.