Sunday, August 30, 2009
REVIEW: Inglourious Basterds
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Mélanie Laurent, Eli Roth
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
MPAA: Rated R
Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds has been in development for over a decade because the story just kept evolving and expanding. Tarantino produced nearly 3 scripts, but just couldn't come up with an ending. He put the project on hold and instead worked on the Kill Bill volumes. After he finished Kill Bill, he went back to Inglourious Basterds and trimmed several sections to make it into one film. Tarantino did Grindhouse (Death Proof segment) next with director Robert Rodriguez so he had to put Inglourious Basterds on hold once again. After Grindhouse was over, Tatarntino started development on Inglourious Basterds for The Weinstein Company. In July 2008, The Weinstein Company teamed with Universal Pictures to help co-finance and distribute in international markets. The two companies accelerated production so it can be completed for release at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.
In German-occupied France, Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (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 (Brad 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.
Inglourious Basterds is the new film from director Quentin Tarantino and probably his best in a long time. The film tells its story through chapters, very similar to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. This works out nicely because Inglourious Basterds doesn't have just one plot, but rather many. The film's trailers have been oddly leaving out a good jest of the story. In fact, Brad Pitt and his Nazi killing squad hardly take up much screen time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing considering all the pieces fit and make sense in the end. Tarantino continues to leave his trademark in this film with meaningless dialogue. Their are several scenes that feel very stretched and that's mainly due to the long conversations the characters tend to have. This also results in the film being longer than it probably should have been. The film is roughly 2 and a half hours long, yet it feels alot longer than that. The dialogue just seems to drag the film down. With these problems out of the way, the film is just pure awesome. The characters are fun to watch and fun to listen to, especially when you have solid performances all around. The film also touches in some humor every so often that's just a blast to see and very Tarantino-like. He also makes good use of the amount of gore and blood in the film. It never feels like its too much or unnecessary. The ending was also quite good and not just another lame Hollywood ending. Its just refreshing to see a World War II movie end in a different way than we have all known to expect.
Brad Pitt plays the lead character of the film, Lt. Aldo Raine. Pitt is an excellent choice for this role because he shows a side to himself that we haven't really seen. He sports a new accent and he definitely feels like hes not trying too hard. This tends to make his character seem alot funnier than hes suppose to be. Christoph Waltz plays as a detective of some sort, Col. Hans Landa. Now, Ill be honest and say that I've never heard of Waltz until this film, but damn does he give one hell of a performance. He easily steals every scene hes in and gives a performance that's easily worth an Oscar nomination. He essentially creates a character that not only is scary, but also very intelligent. We also have the lovely Diane Kruger playing as Bridget von Hammersmark. I personally wouldn't say this is her best performance, but shes still pretty good in this film. Her character is mostly a hit and miss in terms of performance. I never really felt that connection with her character that I did with the ones listed above, but she was still fun to watch. Mélanie Laurent plays as a smoking hot, Jewish immigrant: Shosanna Dreyfus. Laurent is another actress that I never seen before this film, but she totally nailed this role. Shes wonderful to look at and delivers an enjoyable performance that might be worth checking out.
The visual look of Inglourious Basterds is practically great. I was a bit worried that this film was going to go the same route of Tarantino's last film, Death Proof in which the film's visual style was hampered with an odd use of different grain filters. Luckily, this film doesn't have any of those problems and easily ranks high up their with Tarantino's Kill Bill collection in terms of visual fidelity. The film does contain some grain here and their, but its hardly distracting and never overused. Colors tend to pop like no other and really showcase's the films vibrant tone. From the beautiful grassy field in the beginning of the film to the colorful Nazi occupied theater at the end, the film is just wonderful to look at. This is by far Tarantino's most beautiful film in terms of its cinematography and wonderful environments. Flesh tones are pitch perfect and you can clearly tell who's playing who. Detail is also quite strong and really makes for an image that's beautiful to glaze at. Its not razor sharp like the Kill Bill volumes and their are some occasional scenes that tend to look a little softer than others, but its still up their with some of the new releases I have recently seen.
The soundtrack in Inglourious Basterds is just as great as the visual style of the film. While the music really isn't a big part of the movie considering theirs hardly enough of it in it, but its still very good. It kind of reminds me of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and the similar use of music in that film. Its definitely not as exciting or engaging as the Kill Bill volumes, but its still very good and it somewhat carries the film. The bass in Inglourious Basterds is also great. The film has a ton of scenes that involve guns and explosions. These all sound terrific in terms of bass usage. It feels very dynamic and nicely spread out. I was expecting the film to be mostly front centered considering theirs a ton of dialogue, but luckily, I was proven wrong. The bass in Inglourious Basterds is far from what I would call reference material and it doesn't hold a candle compared to new releases like District 9 or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but what we have is more than enough especially when you consider the amount of dialogue the film has.
Inglourious Basterds is a great film and one that's sure to become another Tarantino classic. Its refreshingly funny and just flat out entertaining. Its so damn nice to see a film based around World War II and actually end up going in a different route that we wouldn't have expected. Other than the scenes dragging due to the overuse of dialogue, this is easily one of Tarantino's best films. The cast is great with Christoph Waltz giving a phenomenal performance that's very much worthy of an Oscar. The visual style of the film is definitely a step up from Tarantino's last film, Death Proof. The vivid colors and exceptional detail truly makes this the most beautiful film I have seen this whole year. The soundtrack is just as good and is nicely mixed with the story of the film. Its also worth mentioning that it definitely comes close to the music in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, which still stands out as my favorite film of all time. I can easily recommend this to Tarantino fans because it truly feels like his film, but also to those looking for an entertaining film. I had high doubts that we would see another great film like District 9 before the summer season was over, but I'm happy to report that I can add Inglourious Basterds to that short list.