Review: Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basteds | Quentin Tarantino, 2009

For years Quentin Tarantino had been talking about the movie that he though would become his masterpiece: Inglorious Basterds. However, since it was a Quentin Tarantino project, it never happened (does any body know what is happening with Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair?). There were countless casting rumors about it, which included the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler. But it never happened. In 2008, at the Cannes Film Festival he announced the script was ready and that the film would be completed in time for next year’s festival. It was finally about to happen and it immediately became one of my most anticipated movies of 2009. I finally got to see it and it did not disappoint.

Inglorious Basterds tells three different stories that take place during World War II. One is about the “Basterds,” a group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) whose sole purpose is to kill Nazis and taking their scalps. The second story is about Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a charming but cruel German soldier who does anything to do his job. Then there is the story of Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), the sole survivor of a massacre led by Col. Landa that killed her entire family.

The brilliant script is divided into five chapters (like Kill Bill), each one chronicling the three stories I just mentioned, with all three coming together in the last. The dialogue, as with every Tarantino movie, is very sharp and it draws you in. As for his direction: while not the best of the year (that honor goes to Spike Jonze for Where the Wild Things Are and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) it is definitely his best work to date. It is not only his most engaging and satisfying movie, but it is also his most aesthetically movie yet.

The below-the-line work here is rather impressive. Anna B. Sheppard’s costumes and David Wasco’s set designs definitely capture the looks of the time although the story is unlike anything that actually happened then. Robert Richardson’s cinematography also does that but he puts it through the Tarantino filter and it looks much better than what I expected. The music here is not original, and although it is used to great effect I wish Tarantino had taken Ennio Morricone’s offer to score the film. Since he composed most of the music used anyways, what was the harm in having this legend write a few original tracks? Then there is Sally Menke once again doing a great job editing the movie.

Now, on to the performances. When I first watched the trailer, Brad Pitt’s accent annoyed me a lot. However, within the context of the movie it works, and the performance is quite great. Melanie Laurent is not given much to say but does a good job of conveying the emotions necessary for the character. The Weinsteins made the right choice by campaigning for her as lead actress since the story is pretty much about her. There is also good work from Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark, a famous German actress who is a double agent and works for the British government. I will say that she definitely deserved her SAG nomination and hope Oscar will follow, which is unlikely. B.J. Novak, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender do a good job with the little they were given to do.

The last line of the movie, spoken by Lt. Raine, is something along the lines of “I think this might be my masterpiece.” Obviously Tarantino is talking about how he feels about the project, and he is right. As I’ve said, it is his best work as a director yet and it is his most mature script, at least as mature as a Tarantino movie can be. Also thanks to a top-notch production and great work from the cast, this is one of the best movies of the year.

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