Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is really two movies, which is a shame, because one of them is pretty good. Tarantino’s World War II revisionist revenge story has some seriously suspenseful scenes. I’m thinking, for example, of the lengthy prologue and a later scene that takes place in a basement tavern. You watch these scenes and the tension absorbs you.
Alas, we also have the second movie. This second film stars Brad Pitt in a foul-mouthed update of Lee Marvin’s character in The Dirty Dozen, and it features lots of goofiness and gore. It’s as if Tarantino could not make up his mind: create a nerve-wracking war drama, but also lampoon them, the better to attract the snark-loving youth market. And so we get a cartoonish portrayal from Pitt, spaghetti-Western music, and Batman-like graphics (I half expected “BAM!” and “ZOWEEE!” to appear during fight scenes). Tarantino’s two films don’t mesh.
As for the much-ballyhooed performance by Christoph Waltz, the pundits’ pick for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Waltz is good. But if you prefer your Nazis with a bit more subtlety, I recommend August Diehl in a less-showy role as Major Hellstrom, oozing menace in the aforementioned tavern scene. Grade: C+
Director: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Melanie Laurent, August Diehl, Julie Dreyfus Release: 2009
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