Inglourious Basterds

Tarantino’s World War II movie – I don’t get it.

The opening to the film is exquisitely shot.  It carries a fantastic level of suspense and emotion that made me think that we were in the realms of greatness.  I was misled.

If anything, the opening to the film is the film’s peak and everything subsequently meanders down hill.

The story of the film, as put out in the media is of a rag tag bunch of men led by Brad Pitt on a marauding crusade into enemy territory with the sole purpose of killing as many Nazis as gruesomely as possible.  And the film is, in part, about that.  But there is a much more interesting story of revenge that begins in that very first sequence that I didn’t feel was adequately explored, as it somehow became second fiddle to the Basterds of the title.

I guess Tarantino has his pick of people to work with and that, it seems, may be his downfall.  There is no doubting that in Christoph Waltz, he has unearthed a gem, but that is far outweighed by the bizarre turn of Brad Pitt and needless cameos.

For some reason Brad Pitt plays his character with a conscious under bite, by which I mean it only seems to appear when he thinks about it needing to be there.  Where Pitt’s good friend George Clooney can excel in the screwball characterisation as a wannabe Clark Gable, Pitt flows and crashes and burns badly.

Mike Myers appears in a pointless cameo and the use of Eli Roth seems questionable at best.

All of this lends the film a boy’s club smugness in the same way that the Ocean films seem more like a gas for the stars than the audience.  So, it comes across as a big laugh-in for the actors, all, except the European trio of Waltz, Bruhl and Laurent, mugging to camera in what seems like an effort to get laughs.

The dark humour and snappy dialogue of Tarantino’s early movies has gone.  To be replaced by laboured dialogue in the style of Tarantino – something we saw enough of in the 90s with the numerous Tarantino-esque efforts.  It felt much like a film student in the late 90’s, wishing to be the next Tarantino, has gone a bit too far for his student film in trying to include snappy dialogue unrelated to the screen imagery…except this is Tarantino and it no student movie.

The film also produces too many nods to Tarantino nerds (if they even exist) with the shootout where you’re not sure how everyone got shot to the use of Harvey Keitel and Samuel  L Jackson as voice cameos and the endless “all the characters looking down to the camera” shots that would have once made it new and exciting.  It now seems a little tired and is definitely too self-congratulatory.

At times the film is beautiful to watch.  The cinematography is immense and one thing Tarantino does still manage to do to a high standard is choose his music well.  The film covers a range of music that is often used in other film first, but does not look out of place here.

The audience, however, seemed to be tuned into the humour and the style much more than me.  There were laughs and guffaws as Pitt stuck out his chin and I had the general feeling that everyone was really enjoying the show.  So, perhaps it was me.  Perhaps I was not in the mood for it or perhaps I just didn’t get it.  But from the opening sequence that, to me, showed so much promise and, more importantly, showed what Tarantino is capable of, the rest became a damp squib (many of which were used throughout, as you can imagine).

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