With any Quentin Tarantino film there’s an air of excitement before the movie is released. As an audience, we know we’re going to see something special, something perhaps done before, but spun in a new way that makes it as original as the films Tarantino pays homage to. “Inglourious Basterds” is no different and is a thrilling ride all the way through.
Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) has recruited eight Jewish-American soldiers. Their mission: to make their way across Nazi-occupied France in order to kill (and scalp) every German soldier they come across, and business is a-boomin’. Meanwhile, in Paris, Shosanna Dreyfuss (Laurent) a French-Jewish woman posing as being merely French, runs a movie theater that has caught the eye of Joseph
Goebbels (Sylvester Groth), a Nazi propaganda filmmaker who has just made “Nation’s Pride,” a film he considers to be his masterpiece. Goebbels needs a place to showcase the premiere of his film and has given Shosanna the dubious pleasure of being the person to exhibit it. Shosanna has different plans for the premiere, though. Having watched her family murdered by Col. Hans Landa, aka The Jew Hunter (Christoph Waltz), Shosanna plans to make the Nazi’s pay for the crimes they have committed.
Pitt gives a great, charismatic performance as Raine. His mannerisms and accent fit him perfectly and it’s hard to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on screen. It’s not surprising that Melanie Laurent was cast as Shosanna, the revenge-seeking Jew. She has a look about her that resembles Uma Thurman. She plays her character with a cold indifference to those around her but with a fire raging inside. She has been seeking revenge for years and her chance is about to finally arrive. It’s also fun seeing B.J. Novak (“The Office”) playing one of the basterds. The real scene stealer in this film belongs to Christoph Waltz. Although he’s a maniacal Jew-hating killer, he plays his character with a certain level of charm that makes it hard to not slightly like him, or at least find him intriguing.
One of the great things about a Tarantino film is the soundtrack, yet “Basterds” is slightly different. Instead of an eclectic array of songs, we’re presented with a score reminiscent of a spaghetti western, which makes sense since Ennio Morricone, who scored “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” is highly present on the film’s soundtrack. The only songs to be found on the soundtrack with actual lyrics are “Slaughter” by Billy Preston and David Bowie’s “Cat People.”
The few complaints I have about the film are minor and don’t detract from the overall experience. Everyone who’s a fan knows Tarantino enjoys his long stretches of dialogue. “Basterds” employs that same function. Nothing really stretched on for too long, or was not so entertaining that it didn’t matter. Not until the fourth chapter,
that is, where we’re watching patrons of a bar sit and play a game and converse for a good 20 minutes until the climax of the scene. I was also disappointed to see that Shosanna’s backstory, which was included in the script that leaked online, and was to be shot in the style of French new wave cinema, was excised from the film. Even though it would’ve made the film longer, seeing Tarantino’s take on the new wave movement would’ve been great.
“Basterds” is pure Tarantino: wordy, violent and extremely entertaining. The last scene of the movie suggests that this film may be Tarantino’s masterpiece. I’m not sure if I entirely agree with that, but I do know that it comes damn close.