The opening scene which is arguably the films strongest, is a masterclass in acting, pacing and timing.
The SS Colonel Landa (Waltz), in occupied France, arrives at a small out of the way building where he suspects the owner is hiding a family of Jews. What follows is a malevolent dance of death, cloaked in impeccable manners and detective reasoning. The characters swapping seamlessly between German, French and subsequently fatefully English, with subtitles provided when necessary.
There is no question that any film set in this era must have a least extended periods of “correct” language to have any gravitas or menace. Landa, as played by Waltz in a Oscar worthy performance, has malevolence in spades. Landa actually kills no-one in the film himself, apart from one unexpected & startling scene, where perhaps his true self is exposed. Until that point, he appears only interested in completing the puzzles presented to him, that people die is inconsequential or merely regrettable.
Despite Pitt being the headline name and very effective in his role, the film falls and rises upon Waltz and he carries the film effortlessly.
The story is loosely woven around a motley group of Nazi Hunters “The Inglourious Basterds” led by Lt Aldo Raine (Pitt) who stalk, kill and essentially mutilate Nazi’s wherever and whenever they find them. Ideally leaving one survivor, with suitable memento, to report back the brutality that took place therefore striking fear into the German ranks. And strike fear it most certainly does. What with, collecting scalps “Aldo the Apache” and Germans beaten to death with baseball bats by the “Bear Jew” (Roth), the infamy of the group filters all the way to the top of the Third Reich.
As Aldo states, “You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin‘ business; we in the killin‘ Nazi business. And cousin, Business is a-boomin‘”
Clearly Tarantino and Pitt are having fun, especially with the almost parodied American and English accents, a unrecognizable Mike Meyers sporting an effective English accent, that even a wartime BBC radio announcer might have found too posh.
A mission is planned utilising the talents of a German film star double agent Hammersmark (Kruger) and English officer Hicox (Fassbender), to wipe out much of the German high command, whilst they watch Goebbels (Groth) premiere his movie triumph “The Nations Pride”. Private Voller (Bruhl), the star of the movie, is an interesting character almost evoking sympathy from both the audience and movie characters alike, but again discovering his movie character stereotype when least expected.
Following another extended and beautifully written Mexican standoff set piece in a basement bar, the film moves to its finale, set at the cinema owned by Laurent the surviving, spirited, revengeful and beautiful Jewish girl, an excellent Dreyfuss. Landa does/does not remember her from their initial encounter – his recognition of her and her intentions, are not made clear but it is intimated.
Almost as if Tarantino has been holding back, in the final act all bets are off, with action and events ramped to 11.
Overall, unique touches abound, baseball bats tapping like an oncoming raptor in the tunnel, the scratchy opening credits and music, many significant characters being pointed out using football play like markers on the screen. An extended David Bowie track that somehow fits to the scene it is aired with. There are not many directors who can pull this diversity of tricks off, Tarantino does it here.
There are faults, quite how the conspicuous and possibly symbolic only black character, Marcel (Ido), is allowed free roam of the cinema without being pounced upon by guards and drivers is preposterous. The scenes do on occasion feel very staged and you can almost feel the camera booms moving to capture the shots you are viewing. It’s almost as if the Director briefly, wants you to be part of the filming process and perhaps see how clever he really is.
It would be interesting to see if Tarantino could pull off a movie with his usual sparkling dialogue and casting decisions, without the underlying menace and sudden violence. Whether we will ever finds out, remains to be seen.
Interestingly this film has been hugely popular in Germany, once you reach the end, you may understand why.
One of the few directors in the world whose name is written larger than his actors, this will not disappoint Tarantino fans.
Well paced, with razor sharp dialogue and the usual violent scenes, vintage Tarantino but perhaps more accessible to newcomers than his usual offerings.