A blog about movies and filmmaking.

…and I want my scalps

In action on August 23, 2009 at 3:47 am

By now, that line is probably as infamously referenced as anything else ever penned by Quentin Tarantino, and his new movie is guaranteed to bring about even more quotes for the world to throw at each other. I think that it’s interesting that the Summer has now officially ended (for me anyway) and we’ve gotten a number of epics from genre kings (the other being FUNNY PEOPLE, which is epic in it’s run-time, much like Tarantino’s newest) and a newcomer (DISTRICT 9, obviously). It’s sort of my own private, awards season.

The new movie of course is INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and it’s sort of like seeing Tarantino all grown up, but still wanting to play with toys. The movie seems to take his fascination of working in “homages” to his favorite movies and is actually a love letter to film in general. There’s action, there’s talking – oh how there’s talking, and there’s even some twists that lead to this movie being completely unlike any other World War II movie ever made. But, how in most of Tarantino’s other movies, it’s about people talking and then picking up weapons to prove their point; this one is about people with weapons, using words to put off violence, and still maintaining the tension and power that machine guns, baseball bats and even highly explosive processed film, can’t overpower.

The movie starts in an idyllic French countryside, a man is chopping wood, a few young women are around hanging laundry and other chores. Then we see a few vehicles coming down the road. Soon, they stop at the house – they’re Nazis – and we are introduced to Colonel Hans Landa, played by a suberb Christoph Waltz, as he talks with the man in his kitchen, drinking milk, smoking pipes and talking about rumors. There is soon a confrontation and we are passingly met with Shosanna, who we’ll see again soon.

As each part of the movie is titled as a chapter, the next one is infact titled, “The Inglourious Basterds”, and this is the part of the movie that we all know from the trailers. Featuring a hillbilly Brad Pitt, with a noose scar around his neck and as Crocodile Dundee would say, “that’s a knife”. We meet Donnie Donovitz, who is lovingly referred to as “The Bear Jew”, and Sargeant Hugo Stiglitz. There are only two more of the Basterds that we really get to ever see again, Private Utivich and PFC. Ulmer. Donovitz, played by Eli Roth, wields the baseball bat and we get a brutal scene of him utilizing it. Stiglitz, played by the nearly silent but completely intimidating Til Schweiger, is menacing and hilarious. We also see how this former German soldier came to join the Basterds, and it’s quite the introduction. Utivich and Ulmer, played by BJ Novak and Omar Doom respectively, have minor roles and both kind of are the backups to Roth and Pitt’s characters later in the movie.

In their chapter though, we also get a scene that cuts between the Basterds questioning and trying to gain intel from some German soldiers and one of the soldiers then also being questioned by Adolph Hitler himself. From this we learn and see the results of what this rag-tag group do, so that even the people they release never forget about them – or that they were a Nazi.

The third chapter takes us to Paris, where we again meet Shosanna – although now under the name Mimieaux – and now she’s running a movie theater. Which draws a fan by the name of Frederick Zoller, and he seems to like Shosanna, while she can’t stand the sight of him or other Nazis. Shosanna is put in an amazing position when Zoller recommends her theater to be the premiere for a movie about him and starring him, which will include appearances by, literally all the heavy-hitters of the Third Reich. Shosanna accepts the offer and starts plotting her revenge.

The final chapter, before the climax of the movie is about a mission by the British OSS to find their own way of ending the war with this one event – which includes having a British officer pretend to be a German actor, who is escorting the starlet Bridget von Hammersmark – played by Diane Kruger – along with a couple of the German speaking Basterds. The main part of this chapter is played in a basement of a bar, where the conspirators are to go over their plans. Unfortunately when the Allies show up, there is a barrage of German soldiers in the bar, either coincidentally celebrating the birth of one of their own’s children, or maybe it’s a trap. There’s also a fun card, 21-Questions type game we see played, and it’s very funny and leads to a great payoff.

The lead actors here are all in top form. Obviously we know that Brad Pitt is kind of hamming it up a bit – not quite as much as he did in BURN AFTER READING, but, Lieutenant Aldo Raine, is definitely going to be one of the landmarks of Pitt’s career. Not because he’s so good, but just as pretty much any actor who works with Tarantino, this is a character you cannot forget. Melanie Laurent, makes a big splash here as Shosanna. She gets to run the gamut of emotions – from breaking down after a stoic encounter with Hans Landa, to the larger than life face on the big screen itself. I mentioned Schweiger being intimidating, and that’s really all we need from his character. As for the rest of the basterds, Eli Roth does pretty well with his role here – expanded from his cameos in other movies (Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF, and Roth’s own great horror movie, CABIN FEVER; where he plays a stoner extreme sports dude and is one of the many highlights of that movie.). Novak and Doom, get a couple of pretty great moments. Diane Kruger, dressed in her era-period outfits looks stunning, and like she’s just the most care-free and enjoying every minute of whatever’s happening (much different from her more confined character in the NATIONAL TREASURE series).

But, I have to agree with most everyone whose reviews I’ve read. The star of the show is Christoph Waltz, as Colonel Hans Landa. He’s presented in just about every chapter of the movie – except maybe the first Basterds one – and oozes evil, but has fun doing it. Waltz is given the opportunity to speak four languages in the movie, and when he speaks in English, I couldn’t help but think that he sounded a little like Woody Allen. I don’t know where that comes from, but that popped into my head. Landa’s nickname in the movie is “The Jew Hunter”, and as such, it’s kind of his job to interrogate people, and hunt out the Jewish people. And it’s in these scenes where he questions people – and frames his words so nicely – that a lot of the tension in this movie comes from just his performance. I think that there are only two moments in the movie where he doesn’t have a sort of smirk – if not a full smile – on his face, but he manages to emote perfectly. I’ve never seen Waltz in anything else – that I know of – but this seems like it’s a star making role, here in the states, for him.

The movie in a whole is hard to talk about, because there’s just so much to say, like the cameos and “Tarantino regulars” that sort of make appearances, and some of the bit part actors (like a certain British officer – who will be seen in the trailer embedded below, but I won’t say anymore), and then there’s the whole ending.  But not wanting to put the spoilers, for anyone that might see this, out there, I’ll restrict myself. Even, really going into the scenes I’ve already mentioned any further, probably wouldn’t ruin the movie, but would steal the thunder of seeing it all as it happens. But, the final line of the movie, sums up what this movie is. It’s Tarantino’s masterpiece. It takes everything he’s done in the past, and creates something wholly unique, almost frighteningly original and just completely fun.

And it’s the perfect way to cap off this, until the end, lackluster Summer movie season.

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