Friday, August 21, 2009

An Accurate Look At: "Inglourious Basterds"

It's not often that I look forward to a movie. But when I heard that Quentin Tarantino was directing a war film, I was excited. The trailer thrilled me and made me laugh. And for once, it didn't feel bad to play $12 for a movie ticket this summer.

Say what you want about Tarantino, his directorial style, his choices of music and actors, and his themes. He makes damn entertaining films which are fun, packed with action, and very memorable. I still ask people for sips of their Sprite to wash down tasty burgers. Though I probably won't be quoting Inglourious Basterds, it's still a Tarantino film to the core. [I'm not sure what Tarantino's film has to do with 1978's Inglorious Bastards, but if I had bothered to look it up, I'd probably figure something out!]

Basically, Inglourious Basterds stars Brad Pitt as a Lieutenant from Tennessee who commands a team of Jewish-American soldiers, a unit codenamed "Basterds." This highly-trained special mission force does terrible things to Nazis behind enemy lines in order to strike fear into the German army. And have fun while doing it.

The film opens with a title sequence. Tarantino loves his opening credits and makes them long with plenty of music. Basterds' is no different. I found myself laughing during the credits, possibly due to the various fonts, or the over-the-top seriousness. At any rate, it was a good sign of things to come.

But don't be misled to believe that it is a just a comedy, however. Don't let the trailer and TV spots make you think it's some kind of messed-up action flick. There IS comedy and action, but they are balanced well with suspense and drama. The first Chapter of the movie, "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France..." could have been lifted from a serious war movie. [There was a particularly fourth-wall-breaking line that got a laugh from the audience, but it was actually a plot device and does not take away from the scene as much as I initially thought it would.] The writing, acting, and atmosphere of this first scene were all great and made for a powerful, suspenseful introduction to the film and two of its main characters. I don't think I'll be able to drink milk again without thinking of World War II.

Though Basterds featured many characters, the many of them had their nicknames and backstories explained through dialogue and flashback. For some, it might just be a single cutaway or a brief mention of what the Nazis call him, but the little information that the audience gains helps to make them care about the characters. He's not just some serious-looking commando, he's an accomplished author and specialist in German cinema. I particularly enjoyed one of the Basterds because his nickname was so damn funny and he reminded me of the Scout from Team Fortress 2. Grass grows, birds fly, sun shines, and brudda, he hurts people. [UPDATE: I'm not the only one who made that connection!]

Since the movie featured characters from different countries and of various backgrounds, there was a certain amount of stereotyping that I guess couldn't be avoided. Or, perhaps more likely, was included to make the characters easier to understand. For example, Brad Pitt's character was a brash, redneck American, and the British characters said "jolly good," called each other "chaps," and didn't understand what Winston Churchill was saying. That's not to say that the film wasn't internationally accurate. Large portions were spoken in their "proper" languages. The British spoke English, the Germans spoke German, the French spoke French, Norwegians speak Norwegian, the Greeks are taught their Greek. I much prefer it this way rather than Hollywood's typical "bad guys speak English with German accent" approach.

Speaking of dialogue, Bastards continued a Tarantino tradition - a lot of talking. Some scenes dragged on longer than they should have, and due to the nature of the film [time period, subject matter, setting, characters], the dialogue was not necessarily entertaining [don't worry, it's not as bad as Death Proof's]. You won't hear anyone ask, "You know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in Berlin?" The dialogue was important to set up the atmosphere and push the story forward. Sure, there was a lot of talking at times, but that's because there were several stories going on at once. Some have more talking than action, that's all. Fear not, however, as the film included another Tarantino staple - violence.

If you're squeamish and don't have a sense of humour, you probably shouldn't be watching a Tarantino film in the first place. Basterds had its share of violence - shooting, stabbing, beating, punching, head-butting, strangling, whipping, etc. I didn't find there was that much blood or gore, but some shots involving knifes were particularly bloody.

And if you're wondering about another Tarantino convention, yes, Samuel L. "Bad Muthaf#%a" Jackson is in Inglorious Basterds, in an uncredited role. Keep your eyes and ears peeled and you might catch him.

I thoroughly enjoyed Inglourious Basterds. It had me laughing, it thrilled me, it kept me guessing, and I left the theatre satisfied, eager to tell people just how good the movie was. It's not perfect - I really don't like the climax and ending, but maybe it just needs a second viewing.

If you're a fan of Tarantino and aren't offended by the subject matter, then you MUST see Inglourious Basterds. It exceeded my expectations and to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.

No comments:

Post a Comment