Hey FOOLS! I remember the first rumblings of Inglourious Basterds years ago but then word fizzled out and it was a project that kept being brought up but never seemed to get made, credit to Tarantino he persisted and the film began to gain momentum. Prester John and I followed every piece of news from the casting of his "Basterds" to the spy shots of the meadow he filmed in. So it was with great excitement that Prester John and I arrived at the State Theatre in Sydney for the premiere last night. Now to try and stop my self from ranting and raving like a madman I will break the review into categories because my love for all things Tarantino might get the better of me and before you know it... well there I go again already. Warning this is slightly spoilerish so stop reading if you want to enter the cinema pure.
Tarantino, alongside the Coen Brothers, is one of few who have the ability to have multiple plot lines featuring many characters that meet without creating a mess of confusion and while Inglourious Basterds is not as intertwined as Pulp Fiction it still has multiple layers that come together just as we'd expect. There are basically two plot lines through I.B, the first features a team of Nazi Hunter's named The Inglourious Basterds, they are headed up by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and comprising of 8 Jewish American soldiers who move dressed as civilians throughout Nazi occupied France killing Nazi's. The second is about a Jewish woman named Shosanna who escapes the Nazi's as a girl, a few years on and she owns and operates a cinema where a Nazi soldier begins trying to court her before she knows it her cinema is hosting the premiere of a Nazi propaganda film with 300 of the most important Nazi's including Hitler himself in attendance. Both the "Basterds" and Shosanna hatch plans to reap their revenge on the attending Nazi's.
The Characters and The Cast
One of the things I love about all Tarantino films is that he has such an array of characters in each of his films, also each character has a story which you learn enough to leave you wanting a film made about each of them. Inglourious Basterds has at least 6 different characters that I would love to see a film that contained their back story but to save you having to read through my break down of each one I'll choose just a few.
Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is the leader of the Inglourious Basterds, he is part apache, part redneck and demands that all members of the "Basterds" each bring him 100 Nazi scalps and you see them claim his scalps. In watching Pitt as rain it was like he combined Rusty from Ocean's Eleven, made Mickey O'Neil from Snatch a redneck instead of a gypsy and then channelled a hint of John Wayne and I loved him. Prester John said that he thought Aldo Raine's scar around his neck might be an homage to Clint Eastwood's character in Hang 'Em High who had been scarred when someone tried to hang him, he then goes out to reap revenge on them.
Shosanna (Melaine Laurent), Laurent's performance was the standout for me. She was beautiful, passionate and engaging every time she was on the screen as Shosanna the Jewish cinema owner who is given no option but to host the Premiere of the Nazi propaganda film. I honestly can't think of anyone else who could have played her part and I think come Oscar time she might be nominated for a best Supporting Female Actor and she'd be in for a real shot.
Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), Waltz won the Best Actor award at this year Cannes film festival and you can definitely see why. Landa is a charming character that is always calculating behind his appealing demeanour, his ability to appear calm whilst working out the information he needs makes him even more scary. His meeting with a farmer suspected of hiding Jews is eerie and made me not want to cross him.
Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) is the quietest and only German member of the "Basterds", he is also the craziest. You get a glimpse of his past in a flashback scene where you find that he was unhappy with the Nazi's so he decided to kill a heap of them, the "Basterds" hear about him and recruit him into their gang. There is a scene of pure Tarantino violence in the Stiglitz flashback which I won't spoil because you have to see it to believe it but dang! Schweiger whilst not speaking much in the film does provide some great scenes, especially the basement meeting scene, and can't help but want to see a back story dedicated to Stiglitz and his non Basterd Nazi hunting adventures.
There were plenty of other great performances and characters and few cameos in the film. I have to say Eli Roth surprised me, but I guess Tarantino really didn't have him on the screen to much, you're favourites from past Tarantino films are there, Samuel L Jackson provides some narration and Harvey Keitel lends his voice.
The Tarantino-isms and The Film
There are some things that if they weren't in a Tarantino film people would be outraged, I’ve dubbed these "Tarantino-isms". Inglorious Basterds featured a few, the first was the black screen with yellow writing for the cast list at the start of the film, the next was the breaking up of the film into chapters, yes dear FOOLS the film does begin with Chapter One: Once upon a time...in Nazi occupied France as was reported in the script that was leaked earlier on in the year. The film also features the standard scenes filled with dialogue and there is also Tarantinos love of feet as Diane Kruger is de-shoed by Christoph Waltz. The final Tarantino-ism is the soundtrack which is the next part of our review so you can read that next.
In terms of the film I have to say that this is Tarantino's most ambitious. The majority of dialogue is in either French or German, unless the Basterds are involved, and even though Kill Bill had Japanese spoken through out it was still an English spoken film, I'd say this is more a French film featuring English and German. I think you can also see how Tarantino has matured even further since Kill Bill in the film the outdoor scenes are picturesque and the indoor sets look extremely authentic but where Tarantino shows his growth is the end of the film during the premiere of the Nazi propaganda film. I won't give a huge spoiler on the ending but there is a scene in the cinema where the film is projected on smoke and I can tell you it gave me shivers. But don't fear there is still the thing you love most from Tarantino...violence. Whether it's a Nazi getting his head hit with a baseball bat, or an actress having her gunshot poked as a method of interrogation or maybe it was the guns attached to gloves so as you punch someone the impact causes a gun to shoot from your fist (you'll get it when you see it) or the final scene involving Pitt and Waltz is something everyone will talk about on their way out of the cinema, these are the moments of Tarantino at his purest and one of the reasons we love him so much.
For all real Tarantino fans you go to see his films not just for the story told by actors but you can't wait to hear his soundtracks, from the quirky songs like the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs with Stuck in the Middle with You to the haunting spaghetti western stylings used through out Kill Bill to the crown jewel of the Tarantino Soundtracks the surf rock stylings of Dale Dale's version of Misirlou used in the opening of Pulp Fiction, you just can't help but admire this additional dimension to what has become an integral part of Tarantino's film making formula.
Inglourious Basterds is by far Tarantino's most eclectic soundtrack he doesn't change any formula he has for choosing songs even though this is set during World War II. There are moments of the film where the haunting Spaghetti Western whistle ala Kill Bill is used then moving along you'll hear an almost Heavy Metal double kick beat announcing the arrival of Nazi's then Tarantino treats you to a style Blues that has to have been plucked from the deep south. It really is Tarantino at his sound tracking best, but for me the moment of pure Tarantino soundtrack bliss was the use of David Bowie's Cat People (Putting Out Fire) as Shosanna is putting on make up while preparing for the film premiere and plotting to kill the Nazi's she was hosting. I have to also give an honourable mention to the Ennio Morricone songs Tarantino has chosen to use, they are plucked from other films but they fit so beautifully with the film.
If you haven't guessed it I loved the film, is it Tarantino's masterpiece? He thinks so, even Pitt's final line suggest this fact but I think I need to have me a Tarantino marathon ending with Inglourious Basterds upon its release on the 20th of August to really decide. I can tell you this I think it just might be the best film I've seen all year. It has everything in it I loved from Tarantino but he also showed hints that Tarantino might not have given us his finest piece of work yet, I really hope this is the case because he just keeps getting better.