The latest feature film by Quentin Tarantino has been several years in the pipeline but it’s been well worth the wait.
An excellent cast has been assembled for Inglourious Basterds but it’s a virtually unknown who steels the scenes with a brilliant portrayal of brutality at its downright worse.
Austrian actor Christoph Waltz won the Best Actor award at last May’s 62nd Cannes Film Festival and, after viewing his performance of the “Jew Hunter” Colonel Hans Landa, it is understandable why.
Inglourious Basterds, misspelt purposely by Tarantino for reasons not quite clear, is also the latest flick to star Brad Pitt who heads a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds”.
However, Waltz’s introduction to the film as Landa sets the tone for his appearances throughout and he immediately encourages a total dislikeable appeal.
In the opening scene, he tantalisingly breaks the heart of a farmer trying all he can to keep his French-Jewish family together, and shows a complete enjoyment as he does so.
Pitt plays the hillbilly lieutenant Aldo Raine with comical effect and someone who has a thirst for enemy blood as he and his troops are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
Inglourious Basterds fits into five chapters and continues Tarantino’s fixation with sexy masculine women, in the shape of the French-Jewish teenage runaway Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), but possibly an insight into his ideal woman. Not only is Dreyfus an aggressive and attractive blonde but she runs a cinema in Paris to boot (enough clues to argue my point), which is targeted by the soldiers, making it inevitably a target for revenge killings by “The Basterds”.
Landa is also a target of revenge for Dreyfus. She managed to escape from him and his men when he invaded her family’s farmhouse earlier in the story, but following pursuits by a young German soldier, turned film star; she ends up meeting Landa by chance and Tarantino creates a scene where the tension can be cut with a knife when their paths cross once again.
Inglourious Basterds is the zany American filmmaker’s attempt at a World War II epic but characteristics of Tarantino’s previous films are unmistakeable within the two and a half hours running time.
In particular, the audience becomes engaged with every character that has something to say and the dialogue drains you as well as leaving you engrossed along the way, none more so than in the cellar bar scene. Within the sequence, Tarantino keeps you waiting a while over a game of ‘Who Am I’ between the characters before violence that can only be captured in a Tarantino film erupts. The scene not only reflects Tarantino at his brilliant best but opens an interesting eulogy on the film character King Kong by juxtaposing its existence to the Slave Trade.
The inclusion of the normally wacky comic appeal of Mike Myers as the seriously straight forward General Ed Fenech is just one example of the surprises Tarantino throws up with his latest film.
But Inglourious Basterds doesn’t quite have the memorable detail or “Royale with Cheese” quoted lines found in arguably Tarantino’s best film, Pulp Fiction. Nevertheless, I’d say it’s the best film he’s written and directed since then.