Ad campaigns love a star. That’s why Brad Pitt is the face of this film, despite playing anything more than a supporting role. As Lt. Aldo Raine, Pitt is the leader of a special squad full of vengeful Jews who are unleashed on Nazi occupied France during WWII. This is actually quite minor to the plot since everything crucial centers around Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a young lady also seeking revenge.
Their goals may intersect, but that doesn’t save the title from being a complete falsehood. Shosanna’s storyline is infinitely more interesting. A movie encompassing her revenge strategy could have been worthy of accolades, instead we are teased by it and forced into uncomfortable situations of expansive real-time dialogue filling our running time till it teeters toward the three hour mark.
Inglourious Basterds is just part of Quentin Tarantino’s ongoing experimentation with audiences. At this point he knows how to please us, and he knows that people are going to show up for his camp embracing style. At this leg of his experiment, Tarantino is experimenting with expectations. Now I actually enjoy surprises, but the billing, tone, and lack of action run contrary to entertainment. There isn’t enough action to please fans of the war films. The character development is focused on the alleged supporting players. The dialogue is largely inconsequential. The tone switches from the dark and realistic vibe from introductory scene, to the over-the-top camp in the climax. The only — only — thing I can see being a plus for the film is Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. Aside from his character being dynamic for a villain, his performance has an eerie down to earth menace to it. Here’s a guy who will chat about your dairy cow’s milk one minute with all the curiosity of a school boy, then flip out and strangle you. What a shame to waste it here. Certainly far from glorious.
The film’s climatic highlight occurs at a movie theatre where all the German High Command will be taking in the latest from Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth). Shosanna and the “Basterds” have a chance to kill every one of them and effectively win WWII in one night while Hitler and pals watch Nation’s Pride. This fictional movie is about a single German soldier who held off 300 “enemy” troops while perched in a bell tower. The snippets I caught made me yearn for its release over that of our actual film. I saw a story about bravery. Somehow, in the eyes of a twisted agenda, every German soldier in this film’s interpretation of the world is a Nazi. Doesn’t matter if you were drafted, and fighting for the only country you can identify with: you are a Nazi.
Tarantino writes himself into a mess and can’t direct himself out. Interrogation is brought to the forefront since it comprises large sums of the running time. I’ll grant him that there is tension the first time around, and it was welcoming to see character development occur through a third-person. Still, that opening scene didn’t need to be in real time. Cutting it in half would have given up nothing, and gained a tighter script. What I saw on screen suggests an even longer film, sine many of the “Basterds” are mere faces. I distinctly recall one of them having zero lines, and zero character attributes. The way the film wraps-up suggests that half of them were written out for unknown reasons. One of them, known as “the Little Man”, was somehow written in. He gets captured in a manner that defies logic since he wasn’t playing a role in the end scheme.
I fail to see how society can benefit from this lazy film. The action is so sparse, jokes require a German film background, (that Leni Riefenstahl sure was a funny gal) and it’s not entertaining by any other means. The situation has little relevance toward reality other than an effort to reignite the long since stamped out flames of hate. We get it! Nazis suck, but so does this movie. *½