film review: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

inglouriousbasterds

My initial reaction after watching Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, the World War II action drama Inglourious Basterds, was that I would need to watch the movie again to fully process it before deciding if I liked it or not. The problem was that I didn’t want to watch it again. Not never ever again. Just not any time in the foreseeable future. And perhaps not any time in the unforeseeable future.

To be perfectly frank, I had given up on Tarantino after Death Proof, his disappointing and nearly unwatchable half to the double-feature oddity Grindhouse. Death Proof was, for lack or a more sophisticated description, a piece of crap. So much so that I had little to no interest in what Tarantino had to offer. For the record, I enjoyed his first three films, and was entertained by the first part of Kill Bill. But the second half of Kill Bill left me wanting, and repeat viewings only made me like the film less. But Death Proof was just plain bad, and even as someone who might not call himself a fan of Tarantino so much as an appreciator, it was hard to excuse such of worthless waste of time.

But as disappointed as Death Proof had left me, the trailers for Inglourious Basterds were intriguing enough that I figured, “What the hell, how bad could it be?”

The frustrating thing about Inglourious Basterds is that it’s not a bad movie—at least not the way Death Proof was. But at the same time, it suffers from some of the same problems as Death Proof, including protracted scenes of endless dialog (much of it French and German, with English subtitles). And while Basterds is a well-crafted film, with sequences that are entertaining, it is also an over-long, ponderously self-indulgent movie that has been set up to be one type of picture, when it is really something else.

Those expecting some sort of dark, quirky action film starring Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo “the Apache” Raine, leader of Jewish American soldiers in World War II France that are terrorizing the Nazis, will be disappointed. Not because of the movie with Raine and his kill-crazy commandos, because it is actually very entertaining. No, people will disappointed by the other film that exists in Inglourious Basterds—the film that the Nazi-killing Jewish commandos take a backseat to.

Melanie Laurent also stars in the film as Shoshanna Dreyfus, a French Jew, who escapes the nefarious Nazi Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz). Her story takes up more of the film than the actual Inglorious Basterds. This cinematic trick of multiple storylines weaving together until an inevitable and tragic conclusion has been Tarantino’s trademark since his debut feature, Reservoir Dogs. And it served him well for a long time, but it doesn’t serve him well anymore. Inglourious Basterds feels like two different movies, cobbled together from a much longer movie that included another film that was edited out for running time. In other words, it feels like there is too much going on, while at the same time feeling like a ton has been cut (and a ton more could stand to be cut).

I didn’t dislike Inglourious Basterds so much as I was disconnected and eventually disappointed by it. It is a series of great moments—some a bit too long—that on their own make for good bits and pieces of filmmaking. But as a full film, it moves with an inconsistent pace, and suffers from a smugness that speaks of a filmmaker trying to prove that he is smarter and cooler than everyone watching his movie. And while that may very well be the case, I for one don’t want to be reminded of it for two and a half hours.

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One Response to “film review: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS”

  1. EGGmockradio Says:

    I have heard that it is a bit on the lengthy side and that there were pacing problems. Thanks for the review! I enjoy Tarantino’s work but I think it is safe to wait until this one hits the three dollar theaters. I also believe I will continue to avoid Death Proof as well.

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