Friday, October 23, 2009

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - Tarantino's Pulp History

Cast: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Bruhl, Samm Levine, B.J. Novak, Til Schweiger, and Mike Myers
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Time: 152 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: After the cinematic landmark that was Pulp Fiction, Tarantino has dished out another gem that is somewhat 'Pulp History'. Or rather, World War II history according to Quentin Tarantino. It is certainly not a remake of the 1978 film Inglorious Bastards that starred Bo Svenson.

In line with its mis-spelt title, Inglourious Basterds breaks many conventions of the world war film genre - turning facts and events upside-down and re-imagining them. Why, Tarantino even starts off the fairy-tale-styled caper with the legend "Once Upon A Time, in Nazi-occupied France..." emblazoned on a spaghetti western movie template, complete with the music of Ennio Morricone and Dimitri Tiomkin.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? There are two 'stories' running side-by-side. The first concerns a Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) who witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she adopts a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.

The second deals with Lt Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who leads a group of Jewish soldiers on a mission to kill Nazis. Known to their enemies as "The Basterds," Raine's squad teams up with German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a plan to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Their plans converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is set to carry out a revenge of her own.

HITS & MISSES: Like in most Tarantino efforts, Inglourious Basterds teems with colourful characters that are memorable for their weirdness. However, unlike previous films, there is a lot more dialogue than the violent action that Tarantino has been famous for. Indeed, the director seems to be taking his own sweet time 'cooking' and 'developing' situations that can only end in a bloody shooting or explosive action. An example is the farmhouse scene in Chapter One (there are five chapters) where Landa engages in small talk with the farm owner before revealing what he is capable of.

And as expected, there are allusions and nods to popular and not-so-popular movies and pop culture. Tarantino seems to take satisfaction in developing offbeat characters - and turning their players into stars. Cases in point are French actress Laurent whose role reminds us of Fifties stars like Greta Garbo; Til Schweiger as the sneering Nazi-hater, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz; and Kruger as the sexy double-agent Von Hammersmark. However, the most outstanding is Austrian thespian Christoph who seems to be 'Waltzing' in and out of tensed situations and stealing every scene he appears in.

If I failed to mention Brad Pitt, it is because he seems to have been eclipsed by the aforementioned stars.

THE LOWDOWN: Certainly a must for Tarantino fans.


At 5:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this movie very much..
The ending was a big SURPRISE and made it a REAL MOVIE.
It's a bit dragy in certain chapters but I think the director tried to make a change from his previous style of more-action-less-quality. In this one, I think he is trying to aim some awards.
I agree that Bad Pitt(strange, I never find his acting good anyway) is overshadowed by the others. I also think that Kruger lady is a miscast and not a good actress. Isabelle Huppert would have been perfect for it.


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