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Tarantino's 'Basterds' a brutal good timePosted Thursday, August 20, 2009, at 8:24 PM
Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is essentially three films. One is what you went to the theater to see, one is a boring setup and one is taboo. This ads up to an uneven offering that falls short of expectations, but still is well worth the watch.
Basterds is classic Tarantino. It has all the elements -- lots of blood, lots of unexpected funny moments and lots of dialog. The last of which pushes the limits of what an audience can, or more to the point, will endure.
Make no mistake, the film is violent, but at the same time an unbelievably enjoyable to watch. The scenes with the Basterds themselves have a swagger that carries the movies through its slowest moments.
The flick opens with Sosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnessing the slaughter of her family at the hands of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Watlz) and his troops. She escapes into the woods and sets up their meeting later in the movie.
While the atrocities of World War II unfold, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and a group of soldiers are dropped behind enemy lines, with one job and one job only -- yup, you guessed it -- killing Nazis. They hunt their prey mercilessly and take enjoyment employing their methods of madness -- especially Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) who instrument of choice is a nice, sleek Louisville Slugger.
The story bogs down in the middle, as Tarantino the director let's Tarantino the writer have free rein to do whatever he likes. An elaborate plot unfolds where Dreyfus will wreak her revenge at a screening of the pro-Nazi film Nation's Pride. It's a plot that will extinguish much of the Nazi higher ups and in the process rewrite history -- literally.
Tarantino's words flow freely and result in a bottom dragging second act that only Pitt and his group of detestable warriors can salvage.
Pitt and company come to the rescue in the third act and ensure that when the audience walks from the theater, they do it with a southern drawl and their chins protruding.
Brad Pitt is terrific. He does some of his best work in small roles, where he can lose himself and not have the pressure of carrying a film. While his mug is plastered all over the media blitz surrounding Basterds, he really doesn't have the screentime that he should.
While Pitt's performance will have tongues waging, it's Waltz' over the top take of Landa that is marvelous. Here you have a guy committing some unimaginable acts, yet you find yourself laughing when he's on screen and anxiously awaiting his return when he's off.
The other striking element of the film is its retro main and episode titles and its wild use of music. If you can think of a genre of film music, Tarantino utilizes it in some way, shape or form. It was a little spaghetti western flare, followed by some traditional orchestration and then offers up some David Bowie. It's a unique musical stew that's as tasteful as it sounds.
Final Cut: Perhaps Tarantino's most polished work to date. Basterds has its moments of greatness and is able to overcome a wordy script that suffers from a middle that sags. Pitt and Waltz are mesmerizing. A definite must see
4 out of 5 stars
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality
Run Time: 2 hrs. 32 mins.