It’s WWII in Nazi-occupied France, and French-Jew Shosanna (Laurent) is the only survivor of a massacre led by SS Colonel Hans Landa (Waltz). Years later, she ends up hosting a Nazi film premiere which is to be attended by all the top commanders, and decides to use this opportunity to take revenge. Meanwhile, Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) and his ruthless squad of Jewish-American Nazi-killers have a plan of their own…
Though hailed by many as something of a return to form for Quentin Tarantino, the intentionally mis-spelt Inglourious Basterds is representative of his work as a whole. Featuring his usual calling cards (retro music, know-it-all dialogue, long talky scenes which erupt into violence, Mexican stand-offs, nods to films that nobody’s seen), the writer-director’s long-awaited sixth film demonstrates his strengths and weaknesses. Boasting a few excellently constructed scenes (such as the opening dairy farm search or the basement bar sequence where Michael Fassbender has to keep up his cover), Tarantino once again shows how terrific he is at dialogue set pieces.
However, he also proves how prone he is to self-indulgence. As good as the aforementioned scenes are (and some of them are very good), the end result is more a collection of great sequences than a great film. As good as they are, they’re also overlong and in need of a ruthless edit, which could also be said about the movie itself (and Tarantino’s work in general), which takes two and a half hours to do what could have been done in 90 minutes. As good as they are, the tone veers noticeably between scenes – and sometimes even during a scene – from serious Holocaust revenge thriller to a blood-spattered episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo.
The cast is great, though. Both French actress Melanie Laurent and the stunning Diane Kruger are sublime, while Mike Myers is good fun in a small role. Like Brad Pitt as the Southern-twanged, jaw-jutting Nazi killer, but the movie undoubtedly belongs to Christoph Waltz. Charming and complimentary yet always in interrogation mode (always), his ruthless “Jew Hunter” is a joy to watch, effortlessly stealing every scene he’s in.
Representative of Quentin Tarantino as a whole, Inglourious Basterds demonstrates his strengths and weaknesses. In short, there are some great scenes, but also too much self-indulgence.