In 1944 during WWII a group of American soldiers, known as The Basterds, have been dropped into France to terrorize the Nazis. The Basterds are led by Lt. Aldo Raine [Brad Pitt]; and as you’ve heard he “wants his scalps”.
This is the latest film brought to us by my all-time favourite director, Quentin Tarantino. Now I will try as much as physically possible not to make this into a love letter for QT but I will begin by letting everyone know that this movie has his stamp all over it. I like this movie, but at the same time I have a few complaints with the film. I find that this movie came with amazing scenes which one after another decided to be better than the one that preceded it. However, this strength also made it easy to find the films greatest weakness. I find when I watch movies I love I think of it as one complete story – obvious thought – while with this film it felt more like five episodes of a mini-series being presented to me on a big screen. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because when you look at the big picture, each episode definitely ties into to each other and has more or less one solid story behind it. However, I just found this “chapterization” of the story, which Quentin has done in all of his films to date, didn’t really feel like it fit in this instance for me.
Another complaint that I found while watching the film was that the musical selections very distracting in the film. I am a huge fan of Quentin’s ability to make a great mixtape and to this day I still listen to all of his soundtracks with love and affection for each and everyone but it felt like he was rehashing music ideas from Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill in a movie that didn’t fit at all. I didn’t need to hear some funky sounds as Shosanna [Mélanie Lauret] put on her “war paint” before the premiere or in many other instances where the music really didn’t feel right in the moment we were experiencing. However, my biggest nitpick that I can think of off the top of my head is the introduction of Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz [Til Schweiger]. Now to my amazement we are treated to a scene of Brad Pitt interrogating a group of Nazi soldiers and he decides, for the first time, to mention Sgt. Stiglitz’s existence and as soon as his name is said we get some funky 80s afro centric style font with his name all across the screen. Wow that felt indulgent. I know that Tarantino is one of the most self indulgent directors working today but he really needed to give up on these extravagances. I know this isn’t Schindler’s List but at the same time the rest of the film wasn’t as tongue in cheek as these few moments which is what bothered me the most.
Ahhh… now that I’ve got all of that boring complaining out of the way I can start reminding myself why I love this movie. I love *takes deep breath* Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Mélanie Lauret, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, the dude who played Hilter, Mike Myers’ cameo role, that you actually see scalping, the tension created in each scene word to word, the fact that our time with the Basterds is really a side to the actual main plot of the film and that this film might have the best ending moment in film for the year 2009 for me.
Quentin Tarantino, whether you love him or hate him, is one of the best writers in film ever. He knows how to make characters feel real no matter how ridiculous their individual idiosyncrasies and other oddities are. In this film we have been served the best villain of 2009 so far, and I seriously doubt he will be topped, in the form of a detective for the Nazis, Col. Hans Landa [Christoph Waltz]. We are introduced to him in the first scene of the film on a small farm in France as he interrogates a dairy farmer about a Jewish family that is unaccounted for. The tension created as each line of dialogue is released from the lips of the actors is immense. Landa, you imagine, walked into that house knowing exactly what would happen, how it would happen and exactly where to find what he wanted. As he said, “I am able to think like a Jew”. I am submitting the first chapter of this film as the best scene of the year.
With all said and done I cannot recommend this movie enough. However, I recommend with a level of caution. This movie is not an action movie. There is really minimal action, and it is at least 70% all in French and German dialogue with subtitles. So make sure you are ready for a good reading lesson. Also I would like to end by saying as much as I would love to say that this takes over for my #1 of 2009 from District 9 I cannot. I love this movie and it has some of my favourite things broken down, but I don’t think that it will make my top ten cut for 2009 – that is if all the movies I’m yet to see this year are as good as I hope. I personally would rank this just under Reservior Dogs in the Tarantino rankings and above Death Proof, yes I love that movie. Go see this flick.
IMDB says 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes says 88%
I say 8.5/10