Snatching Private Ryan

November 2, 2009

A Review of Inglourious Basterds

The first scene is a beautiful set up scene. We already know that Christoph Waltz will do a great job playing the most developed character of the story – Col. Hans Landa. The switch from German to English was abrupt. What? A Black Forest farmer/ logger can speak English? What? This language switch was blunt, unnecessary and very “Hollywood”.

“Aurevoir Shoshanna!” Brilliant haunting dialogue, echoes throughout the following scenes and the whole film. The dialogue in the film, in general, is very rich, tailored and Tarantioesque.

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine? Who is the casting director?This was a terrible choice. To add to the agony, weak acting on Brad’s part. Furthermore, he is an unlikely choice considering the kind of stars Tarantino usually casts. Pitt’s acting was terrible, and the character sticks out like a swore thumb. You can expect that if a band of Nazi-scalping American Jews is headed by a blonde haired Jew – poor casting decision.

Similarly, casting Mike Myers seemed outlandish as well, but showed the Tarantino Power as a people’s choice director, a cult director  and an auteur. Myers popping up on screen in this movie is an inside joke shared between Tarantino and the audience/ his followers. It was a joke about taking cinema too seriously. It closes the gap between the screen and the audience and makes the film interact with the audience in a very informal manner –reminiscent of the fire-farting puppets in Ancient Roman puppet theatres.

The action scene shots are a few milliseconds too short. Tarantino’s Japanese influence definitely shows through the edit. Nonetheless, the slow-build-up-split-second action is intriguing and keeps viewers off the popcorn. Contrary to Tarantino’s trend on minimal on-screen violence, Inglourious Basterds revels in blood and on-screen skin-peeling. Yet, there are many beautiful elements to the film as well. Such as: Shoshanna; Shoshanna running; Shoshanna in red; Shoshanna being shot with the rose petals blowing in the air (Magnificent!); the pie Landa gives Shoshanna (looked delicious when Landa ate it like a sexual predator); finally the name: Shoshanna!  The centrality of a small neighbourhood cinema also adds a beauty to the film that the SAW-like, on-screen Nazi scalping takes away.

The screenplay feels like an adaptation of a graphic novel: Simple, yet trying to come off as complicated; unreal, yet forcing real-worldliness. The complication is brought about by thick, verbose dialogues superimposed on a fairly simple dual revenge plot. By the way revenge is a regular theme in Tarantino flicks. Whereas, the real-worldliness is brought about by Col. Hans Landa’s post-war negotiations. That was an awfully realistic and detailed scene considering what comes before and after.

Like butter and guns, a film is very much a consumer product as much as it is art. And the question must be asked, who is the film made for? Who is he trying to please with the story? Who is he trying to impress? Without conspiracy theorizing, it is safe to say he pretty much made  the movie for himself. We get to pay him for his efforts because we love him.

And since it is a political topic, a sensitive topic that Tarantino is dealing with the film seems a bit careless about social repercussions. Not that anyone should take the film seriously, or cite Inglourious Basterds in academic papers, but it does show Tarantino to be slightly irresponsible as a screenwriter. Doesn’t really matter. A filmmaker has the right to create any monster and surely Tarantino can defend himself. He can brush off such criticism.

To conclude, sadly, the movie proletarianizes Tarantino a bit. It does not fall in the same league with any of his other films. The title choice was horrible too. Maybe, it shows a bit too much that he was working on this for years, over thinking it a bit. Inglourious Basterds is flawed yet enjoyable. Entertaining throughout yet not worth watching again, unless if you want to breakdown the action cinematography of course.

Final Words: The film looked like a Guy Ritchie take on war films.