Inglourious Basterds Reviou

Another of my great treats – remember the 'book-thing' last time? – is to get to the movies to see a film that I know very little about.
I get to the cinema rarely lately so by the time I see the new releases they are on DVD and quite a bit of knowledge will have percolated into my subconscious. This definitely effects the quality of my viewing.

So I managed to see the new Tarantino movie, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ the other evening without knowing very much at all about it and that, in itself ,was quite a trick. Oh, I know some stuff – I knew that this was his long-promised ‘men on a mission’ flick, I knew it was set in the Second World War with a largely European cast… and Brad Pitt too but, beyond that, I was pretty much a babe in the woods.

Out of respect for my ‘clean viewing’, I will try to tell you a little about the movie without telling you anything at all, if you know what I mean.

First things first, I really enjoyed it.

Second things second – I don’t think everyone will enjoy it.

Here are some of the things which may work against it for you. A) It is oddly-paced. Some scenes are remarkably long and dialogue-heavy. B) It is heavily sub-titled (I never mind that but I know people who do… nice people… good people…) C) It breaks many of the fundamental rules of the ‘Men on a Mission’ genre.

Let me enlarge on that one for a moment. What do we expect from our ‘Men on a Mission’ flick? Well, we expect a team of men who are individual and quirky and who we come to know quite well. We expect them to be very poorly equipped for their mission and we expect them to gain some expertise as they go. We expect the mission to be set out early, to be audaciously impossible and to be of critical importance. Suffice it to say that not all of these criteria are met here.

In many respects, this is a Spaghetti Western War Film. Huge sweaty close-ups, tortuous stand-offs and counter-bluffs, a couple of femme fatales, there’s even some Sergio Leone music in there to drive the point home.

Tarantino indulges himself, he throws the kitchen sink in there. If he feels he needs a voice over narrator for a few minutes, he chucks one in, if he needs a music video slap bang in the middle of things, well, lets have that too.

It’s long and a bit silly and simplistic and it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. But yeah, I really enjoyed it a lot.


A couple of reasons, I suppose. Quentin has a story to tell and he is brave enough to take his time in telling it. He veers away from standard movie pacing so that the audience is thrown off-guard, not quite knowing what to expect next. He doesn’t pander to the audience either, not too much anyway. The many languages used in the film and the jumps from one to the other of them will doubtless alienate some potential action hero audience members. He doesn’t care. He likes to keep us on our toes, even when one scene has stretched on for over twenty minutes.

I think the main reason it works is that Tarantino is a movie fan and he writes and directs like a movie fan. Kevin Smith comes from the same demographic. They learned what they know by watching and watching and watching some more. As a result, what they do is loose and carefree – unleashed in a sense – it’s disrespectful yet awed of cinema. It will do whatever the hell it likes to get the story told. This ‘fandom’ may be most clearly evident in the music used. The soundtrack is nothing more than a ‘mix-tape’ of tunes which the director picked up along the way… but they’re good tunes and they (largely) work quite well.

This is more similar to ‘Jackie Brown’ than any other Quentin movie, mostly in its pacing and commitment to the story. Acting kudos must go to Christoph Waltz – brilliant as a Nazi Officer. - and I thought Mélanie Laurent was very good too. Brad Pitt is funny – he seems to be trying to prove that he could have played Howard Hughes better than that Leo fella did. It’s a gurning, caricatured turn but he’s the Basterd you will probably best remember.

You will hear that this movie is not violent – bullshit, it is violent.

You will hear that Tarantino has finally grown up – rubbish, he hasn’t.

You will hear that… well, you will hear lots of things, which, thankfully I didn’t. I liked it. You should go and see it and come back and tell me what you think

That’s always fun.


hope said...

And I thought we'd lost you to the film world permanently. So, how is YOUR endeavor going?

No, I didn't ask first just to be polite. QT is an acquired taste, one I've never um...cultivated. Although I love Kevin Smith, not so much QT. Too many times he comes across as a nerd who finally got enough money to make the movie he wanted to watch. Too self indulgent for Michael Moore. Wonder why it doesn't bother me when Kevin Smith enters his own pictures?

Oh, I'll watch it when it hits the movie channel next fall, but doubt I'll go see it. Not a big Brad Pitt fan either. I know...they practically begged me to turn in my "female membership card" for that declaration.

But I'm glad you offer honest reviews. Violence and Language are as apparent as QT's titles. :) Thanks for aiding in the movie choices. Missed "seeing" you here.

Susan at Stony River said...

I'm ashamed to admit it (ok, no I'm not) but I didn't even consider seeing this one because Brad Pitt is in it. I can't stand the man.

Don't know if I could get past the misspellings either...

Jim Murdoch said...

Interesting perspective, Ken. I think Tarantino has a lot going for him as long as you approach him with the right attitude. I'm not a great lover of war films so I won't be rushing to see this one but if it comes on the tele I'd have no problem watching it.

My viewing last night was Kurosawa's Dreams. I've waited years to see it and it was all subtitled. The film is simply 8 of the director's dreams. There is no connecting story at all. I mention this because this is also a film where you need a certain mindset to appreciate it. Beautifully shot but overlong. The final section with 103-year-old man was worth the wait though.

Rachel Fox said...

Good review but not a film I will rush to. I could never understand all the fuss about Reservoir Dogs - bored me senseless. I liked bits of Pulp Fiction and much of Jackie Brown (but mainly because the lead actress was so good). What's the film where Tarantino plays a guy droning on in a party? Can't remember. I liked him doing that. He's pretty funny.

Blaithin said...

I loved Christopher Waltz too. He was my favourite character. WWII is one of 3 topics I steer clear of in the cinema but this had enough other things to draw me in. I'm still reeling in how great I found it.

I loved the use of indiginous actors & their langauges. I love the juxtaposition of the spagetti comedy of the plot with the authenticity of actors and speech that you wouldn't normally get in a serious war film.

Always been a big Til Schweiger fan and Daneil Bruhl, aka Germany's Toby Maguire, is great it in too. Melanie Laurent's character just annoyed me, but all that's just my rabid teutonophilia.

As for the pacing, I didn't find that a problem at all. I mean it had chapter headings & graphic pointers to key nazis, what more do you want. I loved that 3 finger twist, and the English officer, totally loved his accent. And of course Brad speaking Italian with his US brawl. Great stuff.

I'd recommend it to all.

Sally said...

I do want to go and see it, but the problem is drumming up a few like-minded ladies. I think they'd rather be watching [insert name of rom-com here], and I'm not really much for big-screen violence myself. There's always the DVD I guess.

Ken Armstrong said...

Hope: I'm never very far away. :)

Since seeing it, I think I've revised my opinion upwards to very good.

Susan: Are you home yet? Bring Sunshine!!!

Jim: I think Japanese names are cool - I'd be better if I had a Japanese name... :)

Rachel Fox: Was that where he touched on the gay aspects of Top Gun? I hear he 'borrowed' that off his mate Roger Avery... allegedly. :)

Blaithin: What Blathin said... :)

Sally: Go and see it. Just bring someone on a date - they'll think you're the coolest - and will be right. :)

Donnie---Darko said...

Seen it twice now and i loved it both times. Waltz is terrific as is Pitt's redneck Aldo. It is oddly spaced and some people will ay there's too much talking in it. However that doesn't bother me in the slightest as i think QT is probably the best at writing dialogue in Hollywood(and he knows it). Its surprising,violent, indulgent but hilarious,exhilariting,well-written and hugely entertaining. I think it's his best since Kill Bill vol.1 and certaintly on par with it if not better. Nothing will beat RD or PF though...

Dominic Rivron said...

I might get round to it. I've just got round to watching Blade Runner on DVD, if that gives you an idea of my film-watching timescales! Brilliant film!

Jena Isle said...

I'm curious too about the short

Thanks for the review, I'm a big Brad Pitt fan. I'll surely watch it.

jan geronimo said...

Self-indulgent or not in occasions I'd love to see this latest QT movie still. Maybe it's not cinema classic as we know it, but there's something in his movies I love and keep going back to. Which means I watch them every time they become available on cable television. Ahehehe. CDs and DVDs have killed two movie houses in our small town. No choice. City is too far away - not worth the bother at all.

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

Going to see this tonight... after seeing some less-than-positive reviews, I was a bit iffy about it, but yours has given me hope since we generally like the same sort of stuff. And I do, in general, like QT's movies. Never seen 'Jackie Brown' though...

Laura Brown said...

I will be glad if I get to Julia Julie before it is gone. I don't see many movies, until they wind up on TV.

Ken Armstrong said...

I like it even more now that a little more time is passed... :)

Canucklehead said...

Yep - I'll see it. I was not a big fan of Jackie Brown - but I'll see this one. CHEERS!

Catherine @ Sharp Words said...

We went to the pub instead on Sunday, so I still haven't seen it. Might have to wait for the DVD....

Matthew S. Urdan said...

Can't wait to see it. I've been sick for like 5 weeks now, or I would have seen it when it came out. I'll see it this weekend. I'm looking forward to the Diane Kruger dialogue scene.