Friday, August 21, 2009
Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitz and Brad
Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine in "Inglourious Basterds", directed by Quentin Tarantino.
(Photo: Francois Duhamel/TWC)
Those Bloody Basterds, Scalping MF-in' Nazis
Up The French Yazoo.
Yahoo! Yee Haw!
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, August 21, 2009
In Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds", a brilliant mix of opera and
suspense, there are set pieces that would make compelling films by themselves --
especially the amazing fifteen-minute opening scene featuring sure-to-be
Oscar-nominated actor Christoph Waltz, with the year's best supporting
performance as SS Nazi Security Chief Col. Hans Landa -- as he interrogates a
French farmer (a terrific Denis Menochet) about any hiding Jewish families
remaining in the Gallic countryside in 1941. Landa is smart,
calculating, complex, cruel and hilarious in his every move, cadence,
gesticulation and thought process. Inhabited by Mr. Waltz Col. Landa is
almost always three steps ahead of his opponents and the audience. "Inglourious
Basterds", which opened at midnight this morning across the U.S. and Canada,
doesn't quite possess the high-level acumen of its number one bad guy but it's
still the shrewdest and possibly best film Mr. Tarantino has directed.
Three main stories are at work in this two-hour-32 minute epic. A group of
eight Jewish-American soldiers named The Basterds are in France each looking to
get 100 Nazi scalps for their fearless Apache leader Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt,
funny with a capital "F" in his comedic drawl.) Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie
Laurent), a Jewish survivor, hatches a revenge plan to make the
propaganda-minded Nazis pay for
their evil-doing, inheriting and utilizing a movie theater from her late aunt.
An undercover operation involving a German actress (Diane Kruger) to subvert the
Nazi infrastructure is afoot. Told in five chapters each with crucial
scenes of suspense Hitchcock would be proud of, "Inglourious Basterds" is akin
to a chess match without a timer. Each pawn on the director's cinematic
chess board is advanced oh-so-slowly one square at a time, a three-second move
feeling like an excruciating but exquisite ten minutes -- and it's the grand
ensemble of actors on the board who deliver the riveting results via excellently
written dialogue by Mr. Tarantino, his words laced with irony, silences and
With his Lt. Raine Mr. Pitt's exaggeration of quirky characters (in "Thelma &
Louise", "Snatch" and "Burn After Reading") continues here and Miss Laurent too
is memorable, evoking a Dietrich look but more importantly exuding toughness,
smarts and confidence. Miss Laurent's Shosanna is the kind of woman
warrior with a three-dimensional heartbeat that Hollywood wished its onscreen
women possessed, especially in its romantic comedies. Mr. Tarantino
consistently writes strong and vulnerable big screen women ("Pulp Fiction",
"Jackie Brown", "Kill Bill", "Death Proof"), so why on earth can't anyone else
these days? And one cannot help but admire Eli Roth, whose brooding
intensity and no-holds barred approach as a horror film director is matched here
as an actor playing Le Basterd Extraordinaire Sgt. Donny Donowitz (aka "The Bear
Jew"), a gung-ho Massachusetts massacre man on a mission with a Louisville
Slugger baseball bat as the key instrument of his brutal handiwork.
Sly, subversive, satirical and graphically violent (how can such a film be
anything but?), "Inglourious Basterds" works because its actors work hard for
it. That the film's music plays loudly and its imagery, production design
and cinematography (Robert Richardson) are all eye-popping, and its chief
creator meticulous and methodical are bonuses. As with each of his films
Mr. Tarantino showcases an abiding love of cinema, with references to Pabst,
Riefenstahl, Selznick and others, plus his trademark philosophical conversational
types, fetishistic weaponry ("Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction", "Kill Bill"
films) and long, dancing dialogue dangling dangerously and pulsing with possibility.
There are shots of resonance and tension in such inanimate articles as food and drink,
whether they be a glass of milk as a signature suspense bridge, or the whipped
cream that slides slowly and uneasily on apple strudel. Style points like
these up the ante and though sleight of hand may be played with history during
this epic propagandistic wild child of a film, history itself isn't the point of "Inglourious
Basterds": re-imagining, justice and phantasmagorical heroism is -- in a good
old-fashioned, sophisticated and vibrantly entertaining way.
With: Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl, Omar Doom, Til Schweiger, Jacky Ido,
Gedeon Burkhard, Sylvester Groth, Martin Wuttke, Julie Dreyfus, Mike Myers, August
Diehl with voice cameos by Samuel L. Jackson and
"Inglourious Basterds" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America
for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality. The film's
duration is two hours and 32 minutes. In English, French and German
languages with English subtitles.
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