Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds
is a World War II movie presented like a spaghetti western. Ambitious and self-indulgent, it is full of nods and winks towards other movies, stylized violence, well-chosen music, bursts of visual greatness and all the yakking you expect from a Tarantino movie with fewer of the rewards. The filmmaker so well-known for stories that hop back and forth in time stays linear during this outing. I suspect the film might have been more entertaining presented out of sequence.
This isn't a hit piece on the movie. I loved some of Inglourious Basterds
. Other parts made me want to grab the filmmaker and give him a swirly. If only Tarantino would stop trying so hard to make Tarantino movies. Every since Reservoir Dogs
and Pulp Fiction
, he's struggled to prove that he can do it again, that he can combine a wild mix of elements and come up with a film as audacious, loopy and cool as those two stunners. He has been quoted as saying, "This ain't your daddy's World War II movie." It's that kind of dumb-ass posturing that prevents him from grabbing the golden ring again.
(the spelling is apparently a private joke or an attention-getting device) takes several storylines and gradually pulls them together on one fateful night. The title characters are a small, vengeance-fueled band of of Jewish American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine, played with an exaggerated Tennessee accent by Brad Pitt. The bad-boy good guys include director Eli Roth (Hostel
) as a guy from Boston who enjoys using enemy heads for batting practice and B.J. Novak as a less creepy version of the character he plays on The Office
. The actors are all enjoyable, but you won't see as much of them as you might expect. They pop in and out of the film, but the Inglourious Basterds are just a part of the elaborate shaggy dog war story.
The star of the picture is Christoph Waltz in a terrific performance as Hans Landa, a Nazi colonel who specializes in hunting Jews by "thinking like one of them." Landa is nearly as pleased with himself as Quentin Tarantino on a talk show. Melanie Laurent is quite good as Shosanna Dreyfus, a young woman running a movie theater in Paris after the Nazis killed her family. Bridget von Hammersmark radiates glamor as a German movie star and Daniel Bruhl is effective as Fredrick Zoller, a Nazi war hero on the brink of stardom for playing himself in a propaganda film about his real-life exploits as a sniper. The premiere of that film is about to happen in Paris and the event brings the various plotlines together. All the Nazi leaders plan to attend, including Hitler (an unimpressive Martin Wuttke) himself, triggering a couple of big schemes.
Tarantino's two and a half hour (did you expect any less?) quirky epic moves at a fairly good clip, despite a number of tedious scenes depicting needlessly long conversations that prove to be more annoying than insightful or suspenseful. Overall, "Inglourious Basterds" left me impressed, occasionally dazzled (especially towards the end), bored, annoyed and confused. Days after seeing the film, I'm still not sure if I like it or not.