I think I would call myself a fan of Tarantino, I have seen everything he has made, read about what he has in the pipeline and await his next creation, whatever it may be.
I realize that Tarantino movies aren’t necessarily about the action, but more the dialogue and the plot events and …
…well what else is there?
So in this case knowing that:
A) Tarantino movies aren’t about action
B) Tarantino movies are about the dialogue
C) Tarantino movies are about the plot events (as should most movies be)
The answer? Because despite knowing not to expect two hours of balls to the wall gunfire and explosions we are given precious little, and given that Tarantino made a (for lack of a better term) swordplay/karate assassin movie and put in some memorable fighting scenes, then followed up with a mediocre film about a car chase and then thought to put in a good car chase scene, you would think he wouldn’t get a better excuse to stage some massive gun battles than in a WW2 film.
Also, after the initial scene, which stacks up well against most other Tarantino scenes, there just aren’t any scenes that “pop” or are worthy of a zippy description.
- – The wristwatch scene in Pulp Fiction.
- – Hopper’s “Sicilians” rant in True Romance.
- – The “Honeybunny” chat in Pulp Fiction.
- – The Lucy Liu gang speech in Kill Bill.
- – Most of Reservoir Dogs, it’s 90% snappy dialogue.
Finally, the plot of IB just isn’t as intricate and tricky as I think it wants to be, so we are left with a movie with long drawn out scenes, not enough dialogue worthy of note and insufficient action to fill in the lengthy gaps.
I think Tarantino was so enamoured with the fact that he was able to put a famous historical figure ion a movie that he perhaps felt this might become know as “the one where some Jewish guys have a crack at Hitler”.
I won’t be adding Inglourious Basterds to that list, and not just because I am myself a spelling stickler.
The best scene in IB is the first, indeed it has all the hallmarks of a Tarantino special. In essence it is a German soldier politely but forcefully interrogating a Frenchman who he believes to be harbouring Jews, so I’ll leave the description at that, because Tarantino makes it so much more that trying to describe it in more detail would be pointless.
In broad terms though it has crackling dialogue, the tension builds throughout and the scene is allowed to play out over about 20 minutes, where other directors might give it 3, get to the payoff and move on.
As Mr T is wont to do he divides his film into Chapters, the above was Chapter One, in Chapter Two (he is linear this time, unlike KB and Pulp) we meet the Basterds. This is another example of “taking their word for it”, as we are informed that the Basterds are an elite team of vicious, mostly Jewish, soldiers hellbent on killing as many Nazis as possible and striking fear into enemy ranks.
We are introduced to a couple of individual Basterds, a German named Hugo Stiglitz who is infamous and feared (again because we are told so) and the “Bear Jew”, a man who carries a baseball bat and beats his victims to a bloody pulp, but mostly they remain a faceless bunch headed by one Bradley Pitt, you might have heard of him.
Speaking of baseball bats, yes they are scary and get some press in reviews as it seems out of the ordinary, but in the real life game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” I’d take a machine gun over a baseball bat every time. What does the Bear Jew do in combat, hang in the background until someone runs out of bullets? Or wait until a German soldier shows up with a club or bat so it is a fair fight? Seems a pretty inadequate weapon 99% of the time.
We are given a couple of examples as to how the Basterds work, and EVERYONE has seen the speech Aldo Raine (Pitt) gives to his squad applicants, “And I want my scalps!” but they just don’t seem that scary or menacing really.
Nonetheless (because the plot says so) their reputation gets all the way to Mr Hitler himself, who deems them trouble enough that he takes time out of running a conflict involving several million soldiers to consider how he might deal with them.
The remaining Chapters involve events that bring the main combatants into close proximity so that we might have some sort of climax to the film. In this case a Nazi propaganda film is to be premiered in a small French cinema, with many German dignitaries in attendance, including a man with an abbreviated moustache.
This gives a small window of opportunity for assassins to kill most of the Nazi war machine in one crack, thereby ending the war (apparently). At least in this circumstance Tarantino didn’t think small, if you plan to make a WW2 movie you might as well come up with a way to involve Hitler and his cronies directly.
Of course it leaks out that the premiere is happening and the British intelligence formulate a plan to bring in the Basterds and have them meet with a liaison, a famous German actress, to be at the premiere and do what they do best.
Need I mention at this point we are about an hour and 40 minutes into the film, and the titular Inglourious Basterds have two onscreen kills?
Seems a little light in a war movie when they are the most feared soldiers in the entire war doesn’t it?
So now we finally get to the second “worthy” scene in the film, however given it is so far into the film describing it in detail might prove spoiler heavy, suffice to say it occurs in a bar in a basement and involves, the actress, some German Soldiers, the Basterds and a nosy SS officer …and finally a few bullets.
My problem with the film is this, in a film called Inglourious Basterds, where the afore-named group are supposed to be the central characters in the film, for over two thirds of the running time they aren’t even in it. I realize Tarantino is a fan of scenes that digress from the main storyline for cleverness’ sake and to keep things interesting, but in this film these scenes don’t add anything to the film and removing many of them would hardly be noticed.
This movie isn’t overlong, just “over-nothing-worthwhile-happening”. I can sit through 2 and a half hours standing on my head if the movie justifies it, but I can’t say that Inglourious Basterds gave me sufficient reward for my time, let alone “Bang” for my buck. There were more rounds fired off in the bank robbery and subsequent chase in Heat than there were in IB, a war movie need I remind you. Shit. There were almost more fired in the standoff at the conclusion of Reservoir Dogs!
Two good scenes don’t justify the prolonged boredom that happens as we wait patiently. After Death Proof, (which I think even die hard QT fans acknowledge was sub-sub-par), this is the first Tarantino movie with “Filler”.
Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, as the “Jew Hunter”, is the best thing in the film and it is no surprise that he gets the best dialogue. The scenes in which he features provide some tension and menace that is not really tangible for the remainder of the film.
As mentioned before the Basterds are largely under-utilised but that is also reflective in the fact that they are soldiers and this is a movie largely without battles and action.
Tarantino sticks to his guns though and IB is again a movie made solely on his terms, there are long drawn out scenes (even if many of them aren’t that good), considerable use of subtitles, and even a bizarre section with a voiceover by Samuel L. Jackson for some reason, the music at times is also way too contemporary for a WW2 film, and if I bagged 300 for that, then I will definitely point it out here.
I think it is interesting that Tarantino chose to plot his film in an alternate version of WW2, because in an alternate universe Inglourious Basterds would have far more action and be a far superior film.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. As a director Tarantino aims for “cool” above all else. This just ain’t that cool, regardless of what the sweaty palmed fanboys think.
P.S. When I looked to imdb to make sure I spelt a couple names right I saw that IB is currently in the top 60 ranked films of all time. This is surely just a sad joke.