A Tarantino world is graphic, disturbing, and drawn-out. It’s also fascinating, original, and just plain fun. His latest film, Inglourious Basterds, is no different. I believe it is on the same level as his masterpiece, Pulp Fiction, and, although it might be affected from the high of the experience, right now, I am saying it is the best film I have seen all year. The movie is broken up into five chapters, and for the whole two and a half hour running time, I never took my eyes off the screen. Not during the brutal violence, the loud and bloody climax, or the scenes of teeth-cringing suspense. This is a filmmaker that knows how to get an audience’s attention and keep it for the entire film.
The movie’s brilliant opening scene introduces the memorable character Hans “The Jew Hunter” Landa, played with so many emotions by the relatively unknown Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. In this first chapter, Landa enters the home of a dairy farmer named Perrier LaPadite and conducts a subtle interrogation that eventually gets the job done. He finds the Jews and takes them out…but one, named Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), escapes.
In the second chapter, we are greeted with a long, expertly-written harangue delivered by the audacious and hysterical Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Pitt is assembling a team of Jewish American soldiers whose mission is to scalp as many Nazis as possible. In fact, Raine actually demands 100 Nazi scalps from each member of the squad. Needless to say, they pass the test with flying colors. Arguably the most outrageous member of the crew, besides Raine, is Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), better known as “The Bear Jew”. He spends his days beating Nazi soldiers to death with a bat. And they all love it.
After we meet the Basterds, we find Shosanna a couple years later, now living under the name of Emmanuelle Mimieux, as the owner and operator of a cinema which has been chosen by her somewhat stalker friend Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) to premiere a feature film titled A Nation’s Pride, which chronicles Zoller’s unbelievable experience of killing 300 enemy soldiers by himself over the course of three days.
There are many more characters to meet in this film, such as the German actress, double agent named Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), and Hugo Stiglitz, played by Til Schweiger. It would take too much to explain all of these stories in this short review, and you might seem lost already, but in this film Tarantino weaves this story as good as any story he’s written before. Everything comes together beautifully and it is perfectly entertaining throughout.
Tarantino writes this film in an alternate history of World War II, which gives him complete freedom, and it certainly pays off. He doesn’t want this to be “just another WWII film.” He is creating a clever and completely original experience of a topic that has been filmed what seems like over a million times.
The performances that Tarantino gets in this film are all stunning. Even the actors that are in the movie for only one or two scenes create characters that are fully memorable, which is also credit to the script. Waltz’s performance is undoubtedly the stand-out, not only because Waltz is terrific, but also because he is the most fascinating character on the page as well. The writer-director created a character that needed a big-time performer, and Waltz delivers. He turns in a performance that is hilarious, frightening, devilishly cunning, and it will certainly not be forgotten come Award season. Brad Pitt’s performance is also very well done. Even though his character basically only hits one note the entire film, he manages to make every note funny and entertaining.
This is a film that has Tarantino written all over it. In some parts, you will be repulsed by the graphic violence, and in others, entranced in the dialogue that is absolute genius. From top to bottom, it is the best experience I’ve had at the theater the whole year. Sure, it’s a little too long and a little too violent in places. But, who really cares? I am judging the movie as a whole, and it is undoubtedly four-star experience. And sometimes a four-star experience is better and more refreshing than a four-star film.