Inglorious Basterds is the newest movie by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Samm Levine, Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, August Diehl and Michael Fassbender.
Contrary to what the marketing wants you to believe, Inglorious Basterds is not about the Basterds, a kind of guerilla troup of American soldiers with German or Austrian roots (Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Samm Levine) headed by a half-Native American (Brad Pitt), but it’s the story of Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent). Shosanna’s family was killed by Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) and his men, Shosanna herself barely escaped with her life. Now she’s in Paris and owns a cinema. One day, she gets advances by German soldier Fredrick Zoller. Advances, she can’t refuse, even though she tries. Through Fredrick, Shosanna is confronted once again with her past and starts to form a plan for her revenge.
Somehow, before seeing this movie I only saw reviews along the lines of “This time Tarantino goes too far”, “Inglorious Basterds sucks” etc etc. But I seem to be the only person to have seen those and since it is so not true, I’ve decided that I must have imagined it. Inglorious Basterds is interesting, entertaining and pretty much awesome. Tarantino at his best.
The performances were mostly awesome. With his first appearance, Christoph Waltz manages to infuse his Col. Landa with a subtle sense of threat and fear. Brad Pitt manages to make his Aldo Raine funnier than you thought possible in a movie like this. And Michael Fassbender’s Archie Hicox channels James Bond – but in a very good way. Mélanie Laurent and Daniel Brühl are amazing (more on Daniel Brühl’s Fredrick later). August Diehl is impressive as usual.
But some performances were less great. Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard and Diane Kruger give wooden portrayals of their characters and Eli Roth gets way too little time with his character to do anything much (though the scene with the baseball bat was pretty great). Samm Levine was pretty forgetable.
Tarantino is a master at building tensions and he does so effortlessly in this movie. From the first moment on, you’re gripping your seat and wondering what’s happening next.
As is usual for Tarantino, there is a lot of dialogue and most of the movie hinges on the performances of his actors. Despite the weaknesses I mentioned above, this works just fine.
I was also rather surprised at the little amount of (overt, phyiscal) violence. Not that there is none to be seen, but for a Tarantino movie, this was basically PG. [Which surprised me even more because everyone I talked to before seeing the film told me that it was like super-violent and that they could hardly look at the screen. But maybe I’m just a heartless brute.]
There were a lot of things in this movie we could talk about (and you’re very welcome to use the comments to do just that), but I wanted to particularly point out the Shosanna/Fredrick storyline: Fredrick is the Nice Guy(TM) [or (R), depending on where you go] prototype. And Tarantino goes ahead and completely inverts the expectations built from several years of RomCom education. I’d really recommend reading this here post for a thorough examination (and an awesome, lively discussion in the comments) on the topic. Since Jeff Fecke already said everything I wanted to say, and probably better than I could, I’ll leave it at that.
The only thing I really didn’t like about it? The “twist” of how Hellstrom found Hicox out. The thing with showing the wrong fingers for ordering the drinks and therefore betraying himself as an Englishman. Maybe this is again some hommage to some obscure movie I’ve never even heard of, much less seen, but for any German or Austrian it was painfully obvious what was coming.
But this was really a minor thing, so I can now recommend watching Inglorious Basterds without a bad conscience.
PS: Much was made of the fact that Tarantino changed the ending of WWII. I haven’t said anything about it, because in this case I found it neither important nor very remarkable. Tarantino makes it clear that his story is fantasy and his story and his characters demand and deserve their revenge.