Fri, Aug 21, 2009

: Inglourious Basterds

Author: Quentin Tarantino

Director: Quentin Tarantino

This movie was not what I expected. That is a good thing as it is better than it would have been. The basic story is simple enough: two groups of people plot to kill Hitler during WWII. But Tarantino does two unusual things that give this film it’s unique voice and style. Both of these things seem in conflict with commercial success and other filmmakers wouldn’t have been allowed to do them, but he’s got clout. The first thing he does is that most of the film is not in English! About half the film is subtitled as the conversations are in French or German. This is not only realistic and historically more accurate, but gives the film an unusual air. The language barriers are even incorporated into the plot, as a British spy tries to pretend to be German and Jewish-Americans attempt to be Italian. In some scenes there’s even a translator involved, which theoretically slows down the action even more as we get to hear every line twice. That relates to the second thing Tarantino does, which is to write long, scenes of dialog in which nothing happens. Most action films today are all about non-stop explosions and violence, but Quentin keeps you on the edge of your seat by not showing any violence! The opening chapter is so brilliantly simple: a German SS commander arrives at the home of a French citizen and chats with him and drinks milk and is so charming he’s terrifying, and though this small-talk conversation goes on for a long time, every word is charged with explosives and you just know something awful is about to happen but you don’t know why or when or how. The climax, when it comes, is suitably outrageously violent. The film repeats this technique throughout: practically telling us something bad is about to happen and then teasing us and making us wait for it. The effect is brilliant — rather Hitchcockian — in that the slightest thing in every scene is magnified. A sip of a coffee or a close-up of a dessert dish has your mind racing: Is it poisoned? Is the cup going to be shot out of his hand? Will a smiling face suddenly dissolved into sadness as blood trickles from the mouth after being mysteriously and unexpectedly killed? You don’t know and the tension is marvelous. Tarantino makes this work via brilliant casting: Brad Pitt gets the headlines and he’s okay but really a minor character. It is the work of the amazing Christoph Waltz as the evil Nazi Colonel and French actress Melanie Laurent as a Jew pretending to be French that really stand out. Scenes with them crackle and spark with mystery with every eye-blink holding the potential of a nuclear explosion. Everyone is good, but those two are standouts, and the result is that even in slow, seemingly meaningless scenes, the tension is unparalleled. The greatest compliment I can make about this film — which is slow and long, with action only in a few quick, ultra-violent scenes — is that though it is 2.5 hours long I never looked at my watch or wanted it to end. The ending is also excellent, and extremely satisfying (I was worried there for a while), and the most I can say about it without giving away details is that it is the right ending for this movie. Overall the film does not have a great deal of depth or philosophical message — but Tarantino’s films rarely do and survive, like this one, on style and the delivery of just the right sort of outrageous fun we want. Excellent. I wouldn’t give it a perfect ten, but it’s definitely a solid eight or nine.

Topic: [/movie]