Overlong & talky, Tarantino has some moments of glory with "Inglourious Basterds"
The summer of 2009 is now complete. Quentin Tarantino’s showy, lengthy but vastly entertaining epic war film “Inglourious Basterds” finally hits theaters this weekend. Tarantino is one of the most unpredictable, entertaining and self-absorbed directors in films today, and likewise, “Inglourious Basterds” is unpredictable, entertaining and self-absorbed. Tarantino has taken the World War II epic war film and violently reimagined it as part spaghetti western, part French new wave and part 1970’s blaxploitation film as spoken in German. In other words, “Inglourious Basterds” can only be seen to be believed; there are moments of unbridled, bloody glory that only Tarantino can do, even if it’s far too long and far too talky.
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and a vicious solder named “The Bear Jew” (horror film director Eli Roth) eventually cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl (Melanie Laurent) who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers. Hitler (Martin Wuttke) and his men, including Goebbles (Sylvester Groth) along with the “Jew Hunter,” the sinister Col. Hans Lander (Christophe Waltz) to try to destroy the Basterds in their tracks.
“Inglourious Basterds” is an entertaining but altogether violent, funky and funny World War II epic. The best moments of the film are the Basterds’ Nazi hunt and kill sections, but it's also filled with large chunks of redundant exposition. As with many Tarantino films, he enjoys telling the story in chapters, a largely unnecessary (and heavy-handed) movie device that doesn't work as well here . One of the most gifted of directors and writers, Tarantino is obviously in love with his own style and words, and he fills "Basterds" with too much unnecessary blather that doesn’t amount to much, which is the film’s chief flaw, along with an excessive, bloated running time.
What isn’t excessive about the film is its entertainment value, which Tarantino provides in regal amounts, with cool retro touches that only he could get away with (who else would use a David Bowie song in a movie about the war) not to mention lots of blood. Pitt is good and anchors the film well in George Bush-esque Southern accent (“Naasi’s” and “samich” are just two memorable words). Even better is director Roth as the “Bear Jew” who kills the Nazi’s with a baseball bat, but the clear standout of “Inglourious Basterds'” large cast is Austrian actor Waltz as the evil Col. Lander, crafting a heinous villain rivaling Henry Fonda in “Once Upon a Time in the West,” a film that Tarantino clearly plays homage to here.
French actress Laurent is convincing and sympathetic as a French Jewish woman who is central to the plot; watch for Mike Myers in a straight-laced cameo as a British Colonel and listen for voice cameos from Tarantino alumni Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel. “Inglourious Basterds” alternates between serious and fun, with the not-so-serious parts the more enjoyable, along with the stylistic but still bloody violence that's far more memorable than all that heavy dialogue.The extended climax is far too-drawn out, even anti-climactic, but it’s fun getting there, and one thing is for sure, “Inglourious Basterds” is still entertaining cinema (though the intense, graphic violence isn't for everyone). Tarantino is a filmmaker clearly in love with himself, but he’s also a filmmaker you won’t turn away from.