A Review of Inglorious Basterds
By: Scott Yager
Going to the movies should be an experience. Watching a movie should be an experience. We have lost touch of that cause there are so many ways to watch movies now. Can’t see myself looking back ten years from now on the first time I saw Wolverine when we all gathered around my buddy’s laptop in an office the week before it came out. Can’t say a tear came to my eye when I watched Into The Wild on my Ipod while on a long train ride. Movies have become just that, movies. Two, more likely three hours of dialogue, violence, sex, and storytelling that we get to eventually, whether we remember it or not. Hell sometimes we don’t even waste our times watching the movie, we just take someone else’s word for it. We let them experience it for us, and no matter what mood they were in that day, what happened to them the night before, what time of day they saw it or what kind of person they are, we take their fucking word for it. Well let me warn you, what follows is not just a review of Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film Inglorious Basterds (in theatres 8/21), for it is also a telling of a man’s experience. I will never forget the night I went to go see Inglorious Basterds at midnight the Thursday before it’s release. I will never forget that experience.
Before I even begin to set the tone for the film I must first explain the setting in which it was shown. For the twenty minutes leading up to the coming attractions, the doors to the movie theatre looked like the entrance to a Matisyahu concert at a Purim carnival. Jews of all ages and sizes walked in with family, friends, and lovers. Who am I kidding? There were like four fucking girls there, but so what. Looking back from my fourteenth row seat I could see little other than a sea of curly brown locks, all bobbing up and down enjoying pleasant pre-movie conversation. The fact that our local theatre stopped entertaining us with screen scrambles like UEKNA EEVRSE (Keanu Reeves) did not get anyone’s night off on the right foot, for personal interaction would do just fine. Looking around the theatre one thing was very clear to me; all these like-minded individuals were actually as excited to see this movie as I was. A few moments before the start of the show I looked to my immediate left to notice something that should have been funny, but at this moment was actually somewhat touching; a group of kids wearing yarmulkes. I pointed them out to my buddy as the lights began to dim and we both knew we were in for a ride. Never in my life have I felt like such a Jew. Having been Bar Mitzvahed, that is saying something. Never in my life have I ever been so happy to be able to call myself a Jew and whom do I have to thank but none other than the most neurotic non-Jew on the planet, the crazy cinematic genius known as Quentin Tarantino.
Without giving too much a way, cause let’s face it, you don’t want details, you’re either going to see it or you aren’t. If you’re reading this it’s cause you either want reassurance that it is worth seeing, or confirmation that you were right in not wanting to see it to begin with, but know I am aware your mind is made up. If you fall into the latter category, I pity you, because should you actually decide to take my word for it and go see Inglorious Basterds, you are in for the most entertaining movie of the year.
Unlike other movies like, cough cough, Valkyrie (which don’t worry, I didn’t see), where people like Tom Cruise play Nazi soldiers but do so with their pathetic American accent, all of the French and German characters not only speak properly and traditionally, they also do so in their own language most of the time. If you’re not an illiterate moron you will realize quickly how much realism this brings to a movie that needs all of the realism it can get.
I am warning you, I am not taking credit for this next statement but it must be said. Christoph Waltz, the actor who plays Col. Hans Landa a.k.a.“The Jew Killer” is going to get a lot of buzz for his role in this movie. From the first scene of the movie he takes over the screen and creates a character that is somehow disgustingly vile and pleasantly amusing at the same time. Don’t be surprised if this movie starts to get him tons of roles in the US now, especially as villains. He carries most of his scenes and he will definitely get an Oscar nomination come early next year. His performance was something we haven’t seen over and over again and when you toss in the fact that he speaks four languages throughout the film and does so brilliantly, the Academy’s proverbial vagina couldn’t be more wet.
I said going into this that the entire movie would rely on if Brad Pitt was believable in his role, and managed to take over the screen without constantly reminding us that we were watching the biggest movie star on earth. Remember Snatch? As great as he was in that movie it’s all because you don’t see him as Brad Pitt, you see him as that dirty piker. I hoped he would deliver. I was wrong. Not that he didn’t deliver. He was fine. But I was wrong to think that he would have the movie’s fate resting on his shoulders. Pitt was charming, funny, and did a reasonable job at being the All Americana Lieutenant he was cast to play. That part needed to be played by a huge star and with that in mind, I think he did everything he could to use his iconic status to build the character’s status while putting enough of an original touch on it to where he never felt forced on you. What also helps is that he isn’t really in too many scenes, particularly towards the middle of the film.
The supporting cast was phenomenal, working well together to create a magical blend of violent tension and playful awkwardness. Mike Myer’s cameo as a British commander is both brief and forgettable, as it seemed like he was warming up the Dr. Evil voice for another go around but never quite got the witty dialogue to become a likeable character. His presence actually seemed unnecessary so I warn you to not get excited. For those of you who didn’t know he was in it I apologize, but like I said, it’s not a surprise worth keeping a secret.
Everyone else however is perfectly cast. Melanie Laurent, who plays the major role of a Jewish girl who somehow survives the brutal murder of her family and falls into a position to take revenge, manages to stand out in a mainly male group of actors. There is a scene between Melanie’s character and “The Jew Killer” that is off the charts in tension and uncomfortable humor. That is what makes this movie so great is that event the non-violent scenes are gripping and have you on the edge of your seat through great dialogue, first class acting and one of a kind filmmaking.
Tarantino lives up to his reputation of as the Sultan of Stylized Violence (a nickname I believe I just coined) with Basterds throughout its surprisingly endurable two and a half hour running time. The man sure knows how to make a movie. You know how the best parts in all revenge movies like Braveheart or The Patriot are when Mel Gibson has just had his girlfriend or his son murdered and he just goes on that killing spree. Well this entire movie is two and a half hours of that. Whether you’re a Jew or not, I hope it’s safe to say that you think the Nazi’s deserve an ass whooping. Last night I sat and enjoyed two and a half hours of just that. The crowded theatre would applaud and chuckle when “The Jew Bear” (played by Hostel director Eli Roth) cracks his bat across the head of a timid Nazi officer, eerily similar to watching the Nazi’s react in the movie while they watch their own version of a war story. Each dead Nazi in this film comes with a silent sense of satisfaction that is sent up your spine, and Tarantino is the only man who could have created this out of body experience. It’s a good thing a Tarantino movie only comes out every few years because when they do, they take a lot out of you. And like Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction before it, Inglorious Basterds also gives a lot back.