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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Inglorious Basterds Was Easily My Favorite of 2009


Inglourious Basterds: 5 stars out of 5
Lt. Aldo Raine: You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin'. 
A damn good movie. It is not a WWII movie directed by Tarantino, it is a Tarantino movie set in WWII. A sprawling, ambitious, violent (although action-light) piece of work that benefits from the various elements that make Tarantino's films so memorable to many, which includes the dialog, the film homages, the soundtrack, and the obscure but well acted characters. This is an original, strange, and engrossing film; set during a war that now has an alternate ending, and I loved all of it.

Col. Hans Landa: Wait for the cream. 
Despite the attempts by marketing to sell this film as a straightforward action film involving Jews on a mission to take revenge on the Nazis, anyone familiar with Tarantino films should know that this is anything but simple and straightforward. The film divides itself into five chapters, with Brad Pitt and his crew playing just a supporting part of the story. In fact, English may actually be the third most used language in this film, behind French and German. 
Lt. Aldo Raine: -I think you show great talent. And I pride myself on having an eye for that kind of talent. Your status as a Nazi killer is... still amateur. We all come here to see if you wanna go pro... 
Flixster actually provides the best summary for what is going on with the plot in this film, so I'll crib from it: In German-occupied France, Shosanna Dreyfus (played by Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema. Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (played by Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to their enemy as "The Basterds," Raine's squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own... 
Marcel: What the fuck are we supposed to do?
Shosanna Dreyfus: It looks like we're supposed to have a Nazi premiere.
Marcel: Like I said, what the fuck are we supposed to do? 
While there is some brutal violence in this film, the real action comes from the dialog running throughout. There are a number of sequences that build the perfect amount of tension for extended periods, ranging from simple exchanges turning into interrogations to games that become an analysis culture. At two and a half hours, this movie consists of a lot of dialogue (with the majority covered through subtitles) that kept me completely engaged due to its structure. 
Col. Hans Landa: What a tremendously hostile world that a rat must endure. Yet not only does he survive, he thrives. Because our little foe has an instinct for survival and preservation second to none... And that Monsieur is what a Jew shares with a rat. 
When the film is not focusing so much on its dialog, the style really shines. After tackling other genre homages, this time Tarantino builds a world that combines 70s war films with Spaghetti Westerns, while still remaining darkly comedic throughout. Other stylistic flourishes emerge during this time as well, further solidifying how much of a different kind of WWII movie this is. The chapter structure adds to this style. With the first few chapters carefully setting up the characters and situation, leading to the main narrative, and then, finally, the spectacular climax. All I can say about the climax of this film is that is was as if WWII was suddenly turned into an over-the-top comic book. The kind of tone seen during these parts of the film has somehow wonderfully combined with the dead seriousness of other sequences. 
Kliest: Mein Fuhrer, do you still wish to see Private Butz?
Adolf Hitler: Who and what is a "Private Butz"? 
Further adding to the style of the film, Tarantino once again provides a soundtrack that perfectly captures the spirit of this film. Here he has taken tracks mainly from Spaghetti Westerns and some 70s war themes. Ennio Morricone is heavily featured throughout, as well as some other familiar tracks. 
There are some very good performances in this film as well. Pitt works great with his roll as Lt. Aldo "Apache" Raine. It is a larger than life character, with a way out there accent, hard ass attitude, and a hatred for Nazis. Mélanie Laurent is also very good as Shosanna, who could stand as the lead protagonist for this film. There are other good actors here as well, but the best performance of this film, hands down, belongs to Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa, "The Jew Hunter." Here is a villain that is evil. He is not evil in a cool way or in a "don't fuck with me" kind of way. He is just evil due to his presence, which exudes confidence, irony, manners, and a sense of absurdity. He is a different kind of Nazi, certainly a different direction from the cartoons that are Hitler and Goebbels in this movie, and one that will certainly be added to the list of memorable villains. 
Sgt. Donny Donowitz: So when I kill that guy, your gonna have 30 feet to kill that guy. Can you do it?
Pfc. Omar Ulmer: I have to. 
Once again, even with a little (now out of place) skepticism, I have watched another brilliant film from Quentin Tarantino that puts together many memorable scenes and characters into an original film that is tense, funny, exciting, bloody, and absurd in a very good way. 
Lt. Aldo Raine: I need to know about Germans hiding in trees. And you need to tell me right now.
Sgt. Werner Rachtman: I respectfully refuse, sir.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Actually, Werner, we're all tickled to hear you say that. Quite frankly, watching Donny beat Nazi's to death is the closest we ever get to going to the movies.
[shouts offscren]
Lt. Aldo Raine: Donny!
Sgt. Donny Donowitz: [from offscreen] Yeah?
Lt. Aldo Raine: Got us a German here wants to die for country. Oblige him.

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