Mon 24 Aug 2009
Inglorious Basterds debates a whole different kind of foot massage
Time to do this Tarantino style: long, drawn out, and in sections.
Part One: Operation Bastard (I know how to spell)
The generic one sentence description: “Inglorious Basterds” is a fairly brutal film with an alternate ending to World War II with a Tarantino soundtrack, dialogue, subtitles and Brad Pitt.
Let’s expand on that… It’s sometime after the US has entered World War II, but before Normandy. Hitler has deployed the deductive master known as the “Jew Hunter” but the Allies are about to drop a group of Jewish-American commandos behind enemy lines to intimidate and scalp as many Nazi’s as they can get their hands on. You have some brutality… Tense exchanges. A Mexican Standoff. All the big players from the German part of the Axis. A baseball bat. Over the top music. What looks to be many realistic scalpings. A mispronouncing Brad Pitt character that you can’t not laugh at. Finally, an all too convenient ending that we all wish happened, but didn’t.
More info? Read on … Oh yeah, there’s a few minor spoilers in here, but this isn’t the type of movie that you should care about them.
Part Two: Troupe Soup
The surrounding cast is interesting. Other than Pitt, I only recognized five of the actors. Diane Kruger from the National Treasure train wrecks. Samm Levine from the Freaks & Geeks television show – but he’s hardly in it. Til Schweiger from the epic “Driven”. Mike Meyers from SNL / Austin Powers (yeah, scratch your head). Finally, Tarantino’s BFF Eli Roth, the director of such powerhouse films as Hostel one and two. Of all these, the best performance was by Schweiger. The rest had a too small part or didn’t do that well.
The cast members I was unaware of thanks to my American ignorance was a different story. Melanie Laurent and Daniel Brühl played their parts well. The guy who played Hitler had the mustache, hair, and tantrums – so what else do you really need? Christoph Waltz played the antagonist so well and overshadowed everyone but Brad Pitt. Waltz’s character is to Inglorious Basterds as to Michael Madson is to Reservoir Dogs. He has long pieces of dialogue that are, for better or worse, necessary for the movie to play out as it did.
But both Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel had voice parts – and there was much rejoicing…
So what was it about Pitt’s character, Lt. Aldo Raine? He’s the brains behind the operation as well as the comic relief thanks to his well timed quips and mispronunciations. While Waltz has the juicy dialogue scenes, you’ll be looking forward to the next time of seeing Pitt on the screen as to how he moves a conversation along or insults a Nazi. This character is by far my favorite in this movie, and I wouldn’t be that surprised by a Golden Globe nomination for performance in a comedy (not a win).
Part Three: Anxious People Need Prescriptions
The overall film and many of the pivotal dialogue scenes are so very tense. While it definitely tints the film in a unique light, it also is not an enjoyable environment to escape to. The comic relief saves it from being overbearing.
Being able to portray tension so well is a testament to both Tarantino and the cast, but just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Sure, many of his last films were wrought with tension, but his films with more comedy interspersed into the tension are easily his best. “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill” were both filled with tense scenes, but the comedic quips or circumstance are what made them memorable.
Part Four: History, I’ve Got You in My Hindsights
The story feels like hindsight producing our desire to completely re-write history. We wish we could have gone back and struck fear in the hearts of Nazi’s through vicious, scalping, Jewish commandos. There’s a tiny grain of truth in very small parts of the story, but not much. We wish we could have ended the war early while pumping excess amounts of lead into Hitler. This partially feels like vengeance through cinema, but I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t have an undertone of guilt that it didn’t happen this way. It just didn’t quite rub me the right way. Partially because it seemed to be vicious in parts just for the sake of mutilating Nazi’s – because who is gonna complain about hitting a Nazi with a blowtorch medieval style? I’m all for vilifying one of the nastiest governments ever to come to power, but this felt somewhat unnecessary. Maybe Tarantino should have written this and gave it to Eli Roth to direct.
Part Five: Tied to the Tracks of Sound
Like every Tarantino soundtrack, it’s fun on its own or in application to its place in the film. There are times that it’s specifically a piece of comic relief and I did laugh at. As part of the big picture however, I have a big problem with the soundtrack. It begins with a Western film style twangy music. Then there’s semi-period appropriate music. The music that dominates where it’s placed in the film is the 70′s and 80′s beat heavy music that serves as another method of comic relief. There’s even a little bit of heavy metal. It was too jumbled. This type of soundtrack is fine for non-linear stories with multiple perspectives, but not here.
Go check out what made it onto the for-sale soundtrack. A lot of what’s in the film isn’t represented here. But you get the Western, the 30′s-ish style music, and then things like Billy Preston or David Bowie…
Part Six: Subjective Supposition
Is this the Tarantino we all wanted to see? A little, but not really. There are moments of masterful dialogue and comedy, but the mixture and story is off compared to his better films. While everyone likes to see Hitler eat a lead salad just before a dynamite enema, the same can be accomplished in a number of video games or books. Hell, I even think the shame of what really happened is a fitting end for such an a-hole. But it’s not as sensational.
Overall, the movie is a good time. But its detractions will never let it elevate to where we all want Tarantino to return to. I may watch it again to see Pitt and his lines, but I’ll fast forward through at least half the film because I’ve already seen it, and so much of the dialogue isn’t very memorable or funny.
Just a three out of five for “Inglourious Basterds”.