Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Movie Review - Inglorious Basterds

"We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with."

With that forceful declaration, the tone is set for Inglorious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino's WWII revenge epic. Packed with savage violence, witty and engaging dialogue and brilliant acting, Inglorious Basterds ranks among the best films Tarantino has ever done and is one of the most entertaining movies to come out in a long time.

The first thing I thought as I watched this film was how toned down the overall intensity was in comparison to his earlier Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, which were much more shocking, violent and fiery in their dialogues. By contrast, Inglorious Basterds is much more laid-back and relaxed in delivery, a style that recalls more of Kill Bill 2 in its slower and quieter moments, but make no mistake: when Quentin Tarantino wants to kick you in the teeth, he will. The moments of violence and intensity, although more scarce, are just as effective as they were in Pulp Fiction, and perhaps by reason of their scarcity occasionally even more so.

The big box office draw was obviously Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, a sadistic and Nazi-hating backwoods American Army officer who delights in killing German foot soldiers. He plays the role to perfection, with obvious enthusiasm for the part. Definitely one of the most fun roles Pitt has ever taken on. Other notable performances are Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, a charming and romantic yet psychopathic SS officer in charge of hunting down Jews hiding in France; Michael Fassbender as Lt. Archie Hicox, a British officer who assists in the Allied effort to assassinate Hitler and Diane Kruger as Bridget Von Hammersmark, a German actress secretly in league with the Allies; and finally, Melanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus, a Jewish girl determined to avenge the extermination of her family at the hands of Hans Landa. Every role is played to absolute perfection, nothing more can be said.

On a slightly less enthusiastic note, this is probably the first Tarantino movie in which I've been disappointed with the character development. Of all the major characters in the movie, only one is really delved into to show why he is the way he is, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (played by Til Schweiger). Compared again to the character development of Reservoir Dogs, in which every major character is given full background, Inglorious Basterds is lacking.

That aside, the movie more than makes up for its shortcomings with stellar dialogue sequences and outstanding cinematography, and I really would rank this as one of the top movies of the year. Is it the best movie Quentin Tarantino has ever done? No. That honor goes to Reservoir Dogs, however, Inglorious Basterds is by far one of the most enjoyable and accessible movies he's ever crafted. Two big thumbs up and a hearty recommendation are all I can give for Inglorious Basterds.

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