Sunday 16 August 2009

Review: Inglourious Basterds

Year: 2009
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent

Don't tell any one but I liked, nay loved a movie. Yes, if your a regular reader of my poorly spelt, miserable reviews, you may see a distinct patten of apathy towards this years films. Once again we are given romantic comedies that abuse our ideals of actual romance, remakes and rehashes of slasher flicks that are still warm in their grave and a truck load of films that are only built around childhood nostalgia than any real form of creativity.

Then we get Quentin Tarantino a filmmaker whose ego is getting rapidly larger with every film that he directs (this is his 6th). A director who is equally despised as he is loved. A guy whose motormouth antics can have cinephiles whooping with joy or puking up bile. He is all these things but most of all he's a lover of cinema.

Hyperbole? Yes perhaps, but it's the best way to explain his new film. A film which clearly shows a filmmaker in love with what he does. I love films like this because when the directors having a blast then usually so am I and with Inglourious Basterds I was having the best time I've had in a cinema this year.

Sometimes it takes me a bit of time for me to be armoured with a film, Inglourious Basterds got me from the first beautiful shot. Riffing from the great westerns (Once upon a time in the west, The Searchers) Tarantino opens his film with a sequence filled to the brim with pent up tension. It is here we are introduced to two characters that will quickly be entered as favorites in the QT universe. The delectably devilish Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and the real protagonist of the film(yet the marketing says Brad Pitt), the beautiful Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent).

The scene is a brilliant mixture of discomfort and black humor as Hans "The Jew hunter" Landa interrogates a french framer who is hiding a jewish family (including Shosanna) somewhere in the house. I won't say too much as not to spoil it but it is an amazing scene, shot beautifully and setting up the pace and tone of the rest of the film perfectly. The folly of Tarantino's Deathproof is gone, this is a far more focused affair.

Broken down into 5 chapters, IB reminds me of a graphic novel. Like Watchmen, the film is set in an alternative timeline to what you and me would consider fact. This allows Tarantino to liberally play with historical events at his will. "This is not your Daddy's World War 2 film" states the director and he's not wrong here. Not content with distorting history, Tarantino uses his various trademarks (particularly in his writing) to change the audience's perspective on storytelling. Syd Field can fuck off, because the three act structure is thrown out the window. Characters come and go at will and the film comes together more like novel than a traditional movie. It's a bold move, but one that works as we then spend the right time with all these characters and I was left craving more.

With this however the story (weighing in at almost 3 hours) is quite light on plot, but unlike other films which can't justify such a long running time but have one anyway, Inglourious Basterds is never boring. The trailers make out that the film is an all out action movie, but it's not. It's very talkative, however, Tarantino's love for language and ear for dialogue is back to it's best so all the words are so delectable (and superbly lyrical) that it kept me enthralled throughout. The characters and dialogue distracted me (in a good way) from how basic the plot actually is. But lets not get it twisted, because Tarantino's direction of the story is brilliant, so even though it's not the most complex narrative ever written, the film is still unpredictable till the very end.

Speaking of direction, this is some of the man's best work, as it's unbelievably stunning visually. Many (including me) talk about the man's screenwriting constantly but here we are given an unbelievably mature (at times, he still loves being playful with the camera) visual style. As the language jumps from German, to English, to French to Italian (lol you'll see), the look of the film slips from epic to intimate to claustrophobic seamlessly with some to the shots, the best that the man has ever filmed.

Marketing has fucked up (again) and portrayed the film as not only an all out action epic but as a Brad Pitt movie. Here's the thing, it's a ensemble piece of the truest word. Everyone has their moment and all the performances are fun too watch. Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz are fantastic and I will not be surprised if we start seeing them in more American Movies. Waltz turns Hans Landa into one of QT's most memorable antagonists yet. Laurent's display is one of film noir cool and restraint emotions. She's strong, independent and clearly not the sort female character you'd see in your usual mainstream American movie.

The Basterd's themselves will be a mixed bag to most I feel. Eli Roth is clearly not an actor, but I enjoyed his OTT all American joe thing that he did. Til Schweiger is all scowls and sneers (it's great fun) while the twisted popeye-esque face of Brad Pitt is one note but hilarious throughout. Pitt's accent and performance fits Tarantino's dialogue perfectly and his (limited) screen time makes sure that you don't get sick of him too easily (there will be people who will hate him as well as Roth.)

Delibraly paced, visually striking and of course very witty, Inglourous Basterds is one of my favorite films of the year. I didn't expect it to be. After Deathproof I was worried that this would be equally as frustrating. However IB reminds me of the more assured writing and direction that was seen in Jackie Brown than in the horrid overt self-indulgence shown in Deathproof. Those who dislike QT need not apply as the film will say nothing new to you, but those seeking something a little bizarre but extremely entertaining and can't see Moon anywhere should try to check this out.

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