World War 2 gets stripped and dressed up, QT style

This review was written in 2009 for the TOI article, but was rejected because it wasn’t a kid’s movie.
I saw Inglourious Basterds twice. But each time was different. The first time I went in, I didn’t know what to expect. To me, the war genre was never in the ballpark of Tarantino-esque. I sat down in the theater, and then the slow classical music played and I knew I was in for a Tarantino film, and Inglourious Basterds is amazing.

Inglourious Basterds is the latest offering from cinema legend Quentin Tarantino, best known for his non-linear way of handling a story. Tarantino won the Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1994 for his best film till date: “Pulp Fiction”, which also was the Palme D’Or (The Golden Palm) at Cannes Film Festival that year. Inglourious Basterds is a magnum opus in all aspects, and it is a glourious return by Tarantino, who previously directed the revenge saga Kill Bill 5 years ago.

“Basterds” is a tale of two stories intertwined in true Tarantino style: The first is about a Jewish woman, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who wants to avenge her family’s death by killing their murderer, Col. Hans Landa a.k.a The Jew Hunter (brilliantly played by Christoph Waltz, a sure winner for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year). The second story is about a guerilla unit of Jewish American soldiers, The Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine a.k.a Aldo the Apache (Brad Pitt as a smooth talking Southern redneck), who are out for Nazi blood and scalps. The movie shows us what happens when these stories collide.

Tarantino has divided the movie into five chapters like a novel. The screenplay is alive in every minute of the movie (150 odd minutes). His monologues are there, and they are ever so entertaining. There’s one about the relationship between Jews and rats (probably borrowed from Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer winning graphic novel), and another about the Indian way of striking fear in the hearts of Nazis. Sub-textual dialog is also another factor in Tarantino screenplays i.e. King Kong and American slavery. The plot itself is fairly straightforward, but it’s written in such a way that it unfolds, bit by bit, in a series of long, drawn out scenes that develop gradually but reveal a lot. Tarantino employs a fast-paced directorial style from Chapter Two, which involves quick explanations that are humorous, an uber-cool use of the moving camera and depth of sight, a foot tapping soundtrack and a great production design. He doesn’t lag in any part of the movie, although fans of his past works may get a bit weary of the slow pace in Chapter Four (I think the whole slowness paid off at the end of the scene). The soundtrack is also very pleasing, and accompanies Tarantino’s visuals perfectly.

The movie has a large cast, but only one A-list star. Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent form the main cast, but there are also many other supporting characters. The best performance in the movie goes hands down to Christoph Waltz, and this is his debut in Hollywood. He is a devil disguised as a gentleman, and he is sure to win the Best Actor Oscar. He acts with little gestures, flourishes, and tiny expressions and his fluency in French, German and English is impeccable. Brad Pitt has a different kind of role here, one apart from his various big budget roles. He plays Aldo Raine humorously and it is enjoyable to watch him dish out Tarantino’s dialog. All the Basterds provide the majority of humor in the movie, with their dialog and action. Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent play femme fatales, and they are deadly.

All in all, see how entertainment and cinema go hand in hand, in the new fiml from Quentin Tarantino.


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