Nov 9, 2009

[Movies] Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious BasterdsQuentin Tarantino has become known for his violent yet quirky movies that are not quite like anything we've seen in a while and yet they're also very, very familiar. He has a passion for classic film genres and he celebrates a lot of the more eccentric movies as seen in the homages he manages to insert into his productions.

And thus he's developed quite the fan following and I myself had a passion for Tarantino films. If you can get past all the swearing and the cartoon violence and gore, you'll be just fine.

Not all of his movies become universally popular though, that much is to be expected of any filmmaker. Personally, I loved Grindhouse, but I know many people didn't appreciate it, as an example. Either way, he still makes some pretty entertaining movies and each of his releases deserves a viewing at least once in the movie's lifetime.

Inglourious Basterds is the latest Tarantino production that has been touted as a "spaghetti western but with World War II iconography" I can understand why Tarantino describes this movie that way.

The movie follows two main plots - the first being that of the Inglourious Basterds themselves and that of a young French Jewish survivor named Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent).

The Bastards are a unit of Jewish American soldiers inserted into France with the sole missions of engaging in guerilla warefare. Their personal mission is to kill as many Nazis as possible and in the end scalping them as the American Indians did in order to fulfill their quota to their commanding officer, 1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), also known as Aldo the Apache. They're a pretty diverse and savage crew with members like Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), also known as the Bear Jew and a German recruit Oberfeldwebel Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) who appears to be a psychopath of sorts who killed many SS Gestapo officers while serving as a soldier in the German Wehrmacht. The Bastards are eventually tasked to assist British Lieutentnat Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) in a mission to attack a premiere of a new German film that will be attended by many members of the German High Command.

Shosanna on the other hand is the sole survivor of the massacre of her family by Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) of the SS, who is known as the Jew Hunter because of his out-of-the box thinking in finding hidden Jews. He had let Shosanna escape the massacre as a child and now she's become the proprietress of a small French cinema. After young German hero turned actor Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl ) falls in love with her and manages to convince the movie's creator, the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth), to host the premiere of their movie in her cinema, she realizes she now has the chance to revenge herself on the Germans by burning the theater down.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 20:  Acress Melanie Laure...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Thus the interesting development of the movie as these two separate groups plan out how to stage an attack on the same movie premiere does become rather interesting and the interplay of the various characters makes for some pretty entertaining storytelling. Tarantino chose to divide the film into chapters once more, which was similar to how he handled Kill Bill as well. It helps the audience understand each major plot on its own in terms of the character backgrounds until you get to the final act where all parties begin to converge.

The movie's writing was classic Tarantino with a generous amount of dialog, a decent amount of swearing and cursing and a lot of moments that almost seem absurd. There's a fair amount of violence too but it's not the same level of almost comic gore that we've seen in Kill Bill and Grindhouse. Despite the fact that the Basterds actually scalp people on-screen, it turns out to be not all that bad.

The movie somehow lacked that kind of strong-willed vibrancy that we've come to associate with Tarantino films, as if this one was a lot more mainstream that his previous releases. It didn't feel necessarily edgy or avant-garde in any particular way - it was just an entertaining movie to help pass the time, but not much beyond that.

I guess things just didn't quite tie up neatly for me towards the end of the movie. Normally the diverse elements come together and manage to be pretty surprising and interesting in Tarantino films and this tie around it just sort of finds a resolution and goes with it. And that's about it. I'm not saying it's a bad movie - it's pretty good in that respect. What I am saying is that it's just not quite Tarantino's best and perhaps this statement is colored by potentially high expectations when it comes to his movies.

Inglourious Basterds gets 4 glasses of milk out of 5.

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