Tuesday, February 15, 2011

FTT Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

I have issues with Quentin Tarantino; I'm not a fan. For all of his vaunted skill, cinema love and tireless research and attention to detail, I find his stuff formulaic and simplistic. Time passes, men who do very bad things become predictable, and the final product feels a lot like something he's already made. I know people love the guy, but he just seems like a twitching ball of nerd to me.

But, well, it's a good formula. And when the strengths outweigh the positives, as they do here, you get something to chew popcorn to.

Brad Pitt gets the lead role as an American insurgent inside Nazi-occupied France, and he chomps the scenery for all that he's worth as an American redneck soldier and captain with a taste for scalping his victims, and carving swastikas into those that he spares. Like any cheerful maniac, he's a load of fun in the role, especially when positioned against the cool and polished evil of Christopher Waltz, who plays the lead Gestapo operative and detective.

Three things really stand out from this, and make it worth the rental:

1) Melanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus, the bridge point between the grueling but great opening scene, and the climax. She's really good, never a problem to look at, and equal parts vulnerable and deadly. She's going to get a lot of work from this.

2) Tarantino's cheerful gender-neutral nature towards violence; this is not a director that's afraid of his actresses and stunt women taking a beating, and

3) The simple but effective plot stroke to have people actually speak in French, Gernan or English, rather than the usual WW2 movie convention of everyone just talking English and forgetting about things. It works on every level, and makes you wonder why every movie set in that time frame doesn't go there. We've got white people killing white people, for the last time on the planet in terms of organized warfare. You could pass for the enemy, so long as you stay quiet... but eventually, of course, you can't. That's good tension.

Blu-ray extras are easily skipped, though the making of the Nazi propaganda movie, complete with interviews of the prominent Nazis from the film talking in character, is disturbingly funny. Like most of Tarantino's work, really. Worth a spin.

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