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Inglourious Basterds
Genre War
Year: 2009
 
Review:
Quentin Tarantino's latest film, Inglourious Basterds (10 years in the making) is about to hit South African shores like D-Day this Friday. Brad Pitt appears to be the star and headlines a cast including: Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Julie Dreyfuss, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Til Schweiger and Mike Myers in what will no doubt be a return to Tarantino's heydays after the Grindhouse accident involving Deathproof, which was not quite up to scratch when contrasted with the likes of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill: Vol.1.

The World War II drama follows 'The Basterds' a group of Jewish-American soldiers behind enemy lines, as they strike fear into the heart of the Nazis with an Apache-style spate of grisly killing and scalping spree across the Third Reich. The film centres around a Parisian cinema, where Frederick Zoller, the hero and star of a new Nazi propaganda film is being paid tribute.

High-ranking Nazi officers attend the gala event and the opportunity for the Inglourious Basterds to strike is just too tempting for them to resist, after racking up a few hundred scalps. Tarantino's take-no-prisoners account of World War II is a spaghetti Western take on war comic book action with influences from Valkyrie, Cinema Paradiso, A Clockwork Orange and even Columbo to bludgeon you with The Inglourious Basterds.

Tarantino must be a fan of Sergio Leone's work, because there's a strong influence in the cinematography and scripting in Inglourious Basterds. Leone's works includes: Once Upon A Time In The West, A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Tarantino's pacing adjusts to include cool lingering drama, which primarily revolves around coercing the truth out of a guilty or disguised character.

These intense, usually across the table exchanges are reminscent of Leone's bar and ranch house scenes, which draw the audience in with engaging dialogue, mixed emotions and an encroaching sense of claustrophobia in a battle of wits. Tarantino even approached long-time Leone collaborator Ennio Morricone to compose the music for Inglourious Basterds.

The same war comic book action/adventure of Bryan Singer's Valkyrie is present, although its quite surprising that the Inglourious Basterds don't take centre stage like characters in The Dirty Dozen or The Great Escape. Instead, the story spreads the load with Brad Pitt taking on the Lee Marvin role of squad leader.

As much as Pitt is the star of Inglourious Basterds, he'd probably be the first one to admit that German actor Christoph Waltz is the scene-stealer. The role was probably written for John Malkovich, but Waltz takes the cool, calm, psychotic role of Colonel/Detective Landa right to the top and it won't be surprising if Waltz is nominated for an Oscar for this performance.

The plot's reliance on a cinema immediately puts Cinema Paradiso in the picture. One of the subplots involving the pursuit of an escaped French Jew ties in with the cinema, which is the venue for the climactic grand finale. The scene is heightened, since the audience is also seated in a cinema... at the mercy of the projectionist and all subplots come to a head simultaneously leading to key dramatic tensions unfolding and several unexpected turns. It's an opus to rally Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much in terms of tension as political arm-wrestling behind-the-scenes leads to a thrilling resolution.

Clockwork Orange is an inherent aspect of the brutality as a gang of Nazi-slaying Jews harvest their scalps. The killing isn't as indiscriminate as that of A Clockwork Orange, but there's a similar flair for ultra-violence and revenge making Inglourious Basterds a bloody affair. It's war, but somehow bullets just don't do enough justice

Tarantino hasn't made a tapestry of other films, but these clearly influence the overall production in Inglourious Basterds. Flashbacks, dark comedy, on-screen titles and his usual trademarks are still in place, but it's interesting to see Tarantino operating outside of America with French, German and English seamlessly blending into one another. He has always been set apart from mainstream Hollywood, but this French excursion disassociates him even further.

Inglourious Basterds is a fantastic piece of entertainment that grabs hold of you and never lets you go. The characters, dialogue, performances, ultra-violence, sinister comedy, cinematography and narrative are so compelling that you won't have time to shuffle for your cell phone or check your watch.

What's bad about it? Well, on reflection - some of the scenes did seem a little contrived and the content is definitely not for sensitive viewers. While it could have been even more graphic, it's certainly not for the faint-hearted, but if you like Tarantino, Westerns or War movies, Inglourious Basterds is your movie.

The bottom line: Gripping.

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