Sunday, August 23, 2009

Business is boomin'

Everyone knows that I consider Quentin Tarantino to be one of the great filmmakers of our time. I have loved all of his films, and one of them--Pulp Fiction--I rank near the top of the list of greatest films of all time. So it should surprise no one that I was excited to see his latest film, Inglourious Basterds.

Now a lot of people are blathering on and on about Tarantino's extreme revisionist history in this film about a special group of World War II soldiers tasked with spreading fear among the Germans by killing, scalping, and terrorizing the Nazis. Let's be clear: no such group ever existed, so Tarantino's revisions of history are perfectly acceptable in my view. But enough about that nonsense--when you see the film and know the scene to which I'm referring, you'll know that it works perfectly. If you disagree, then so be it.

Now let's talk about the film itself (and I will not discuss too much plot here):

I will say right away that Inglourious Basterds is an extremely fun time at the movies. It is hilarious, shocking, disturbing, and entertaining. The two and half hour run time flies by.

From the opening shots and sounds, Tarantino's thumbprint is all over this film, from the Spaghetti Western music to the font choice of the credits. Tarantino's love of movies comes through loud and clear here.

The tension that builds in the opening scene at a farm house in the Nazi-occupied French countryside sets the tone for the whole film, and we are introduced to the "Jew Hunter," SS Colonel Hans Landa, played exquisitely by German actor Christoph Waltz, who will definitely be nominated for an Oscar. Without revealing too much plot, this scene sets the clocks in motion.

And then we meet the Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine. Brad Pitt is exceptional here. Between the comical accent and the hilarious things he says, Pitt adds so much humor that he makes this film superbly entertaining. Now, remember that the Basterds' job is to terrorize Nazis, and this is a Tarantino film, so the violence here is extreme. But it is also extremely effective. Baseball bats, bombs, guns, knives--all play a role in the slaughters that ensue throughout the film, and part of what I've always loved about Tarantino's films is the unsettling feeling I get from being so entertained by such violence.

Then the movie unfolds in chapters, alternating between storylines that we know early on will intersect eventually.

Inglourious Basterds is a revenge fantasy, and as such I know that some people are disturbed by the actions onscreen. One critic wrote something about "stooping to their level" and may have even made some lame Guantanamo reference. Shut up. If these men were real, I would have a problem with their actions. But they are fictional, so I don't. Yes, this is a disturbing film, but a powerful one.

This film also underscores what I love about the way Tarantino makes films. I love the camera work, the movement, the music choices, the editing, the dark humor, the pastiche of styles (including a strange and hilarious Peter Sellers-esque turn by Mike Myers)--everything. And yes, the violence.

I said before that Inglourious Basterds is a very entertaining film, and it is that. But it is more than that: it is a masterpiece--the year's best film, one of Tarantino's best films, one of the decade's best films.


At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Joy Reed posited...

Tarentino is very twisted, but that is what makes him famous.


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