Lovers of cinema, gather ‘round – Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie has landed in theatres in a spectacular fashion. Inglourious Basterds (sic) is the type of film that grabs you by the throat, roughs you up, and then leaves you in a heaving heap wondering what exactly just happened.
Set in World War II, Inglourious Basterds features an ensemble cast of oddball characters constantly working against and with each other. Brad Pitt plays a US Lieutenant with a Louisiana accent and a penchant for Nazi scalps leading a rag-tag group of American Jews in a vengeance campaign across occupied France. Colonel Landa, a top Nazi played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz, works to hunt down these so-called “Inglourious Basterds” and other Jews-in-hiding. Various locals and turncoats also join in on the drama, conspiring for (or working against) a plot to firebomb Hitler and the Reich elite. It’s a typical Tarantino plot, filled with twisting storylines that converge to a climactic and all-revealing ending.
Don’t let this description fool you, however, as Inglourious Basterds is not an action movie nor a typical war movie in any fashion. The handful of scenes are softly paced and dialogue heavy, but not in a manner which is boring or slow. It is a testament to Tarantino’s brilliance that the audience can sit for two-and-a-half hours in absolute awe of the characters on screen without so much as yawning. Every single word or gesture is absolutely quintessential in building the tense emotions on which each scene thrives.
When the action does come, it is fast-paced and over-the-top gory. The scattering of violent scenes, though short in actual length, dangle in the viewer’s mind, casting shadows of doubt over the rest of movie. Adding to this haunting sense is the cinematic fashion in which the scenes are shot. Extended close-ups offer a sort of facial study, allowing for all the fear and tension the characters feel to be transmitted into the viewer. Wide shots composed of contrasting figures in domineering positions create a compressive, surrounding effect. Add to this the slowly building soundtrack (in which David Bowie’s “Cat People” has a beautiful role) and the overall film takes on an offsetting tone of emotions under pressure.
It is this nagging doubt that leads to the underlying meaning of the movie, that of a mocking indignation of revisionist history. The uber-vilification of Nazi Germany in modern society and the uncontrollable rage it cultivates is shown for all its hyperbolic nonsense in Inglourious Basterds. The immense violence perpetrated by the supposed “heroes” only serves to disgust, creating a moral dilemma regarding the act of vengeance. Inglourious Basterds serves as an anti-war movie movie, a sort of condemnation of the modern cinema goer’s lust for bloody revenge on film.
From the superb acting to riveting dialogue to intelligent plot, Inglourious Basterds is the greatest cinematic experience 2009 has offered so far.