3.06.2010

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Universal Pictures, 2009
R; 153 minutes
5 stars (out of 5)

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In film school, we were required to view Reservoir Dogs. I hadn't wanted to see it, but I ended up really liking it. Which surprised me, since I generally dislike anything with gratuitous bloodshed.

That said, there haven't been many other Tarantino films that I've seen and enjoyed. I disliked Jackie Brown and found Four Rooms uneven at best. I didn't even make it through Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill; they bored me too much. Sacrilege! But how can I apologize for personal preference?

I was beginning to think Reservoir Dogs had been a fluke. But I did want to see Inglourious Basterds. All the Academy Award hubbub, PLUS: Brad Pitt! Whom I've loved since Interview with the Vampire. And I'm pleased to say that this movie did not disappoint. The violence was not so over-the-top as to disgust me, and the grimness of Laurent's turn as a vengeful Jew was nicely balanced with Pitt and Waltz, who added an odd, offbeat humor to the whole affair.

In short, Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine, who helms a small band of American soldiers known as "The Basterds." They stalk Nazi-occupied France and ambush Nazi squadrons. Meanwhile, Laurent plays the sole surviving member of a Jewish family that was massacred at the hands of Waltz's SS officer Landa. She has changed her name and now runs a cinema, and when her venue is singled out for a Nazi film premiere, she decides to use her dubious windfall as the jumping-off point for some serious payback.

It all comes together in the end, and I won't give it away. But Pitt is fun to watch, especially with his thick accent. I only wish he'd had more screen time. Waltz is surely the shoo-in for his Oscar category; he plays Landa with the perfect mixture of light-minded delight and megalomania, wrapped in self-assured narcissism. The viewer simultaneously wants to (a) invite him to a dinner party, (b) lock him in a cage and force him to perform like a trained monkey, and (c) put a bullet through his head. That takes talent. I'd be glad to see this movie win the whole kit 'n' kaboodle, but I'll take a trophy for Waltz at the least.

1 comment:

Christine said...

This film is one of my favorites of Tarantino's, too. Though I did like Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill! Brad Pitt always surprises me. So many people lump him in with the pretty boy actors out there, and I don't have much love for those types, but Brad plays such magnificent roles. He's really good at the quirky ones.