Thursday, September 17, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Boys To Men

While Quentin Tarantino's love for movies is unquestionable, Inglourious Basterds tops his previous efforts in genre revolution, tossing a whole of of ingredients together and mixing them up, and you'll be put into a mental dizzy just keeping track of the numerous odes, homages, and pure love for the cinema that Tarantino included in this film, a misnomer most definitely that this is anything but a WWII movie about a group of US-Jewish guerrilla soldiers inserted into enemy territory to strike fear through their inhumane ways of exterminating Hitler's army.

Told in chapters (which I felt could actually stand alone as short films) and running some 153 minutes, Inglourious Basterds isn't your father's war movie, where it's flat out action from end to end. In true Tarantino fashion, you've got to brace yourself for a lot, and I mean a whole lot of dialogues and conversations as only how Tarantino knows to craft in an engrossing, engaging fashion. While the violence and F-bombs have been considerably toned down, the way the characters interact, from egoistical monologues to a pair of lovebirds realizing their calling, from intense conversations to foolhardy game play around a table, are pure gold, with such talky scenes getting milked dry, before mayhem got unleashed akin to pressing the reset button, only to have the next chapter repeat itself stylistically all over again. I continue to stand amazed at how Tarantino fashions and crafts his dialogues.

If you're geared up for some rowdy action as the trailer made it out to be, then you'll be disappointed outright, since you don't really get to see the Basterds in action all the time, especially after that rousing speech by Lt Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) outlining the Basterds' mission, with the narrative fast-forwarding many years to the tail-end of the war. Not that I didn't mind of course, as there are a lot more going for the film, than a straight-out action whack fest, knowing Tarantino being at the helm.

And in Tarantino-verse, the chapters here are designed with a lot of precision, despite having a lot going for it. I especially enjoyed the opening, quite unconventional in a way, but what an introduction to the villain, played in such low key terms as it built up toward quiet revelation. The gem of the film is undoubtedly Christoph Waltz's chilling performance as Col. Hans Landa, aka The Jew Hunter, earning a reputation of always getting his man through extremely convincing techniques of interviews, interrogation and negotiations. Tarantino has crafted a highly complex villain, and I dare say the best amongst his stories thus far, who's always full of surprises for his enemies. A cunning linguist as well, he's tremendously gentlemanly in his demeanour, never betraying the sick and ruthless core hidden behind that shiny medal-filled uniform. Waltz is definitely worthy of all accolades coming his way by virtue of his sterling performance here.

The other scene which worked magically, was that in a tavern, where Lt Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) and Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) meet up with double agent actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to discuss plans for Operation Kino, only to be constantly interrupted by Major Dieter Hellstrom (August Diehl). What transpired is something that bordered on the hilarious, yet constantly teething on knife's edge given our heroes' bluff on the verge of being exposed. And with two Mexican stand offs done in Tarantino style, what more can you ask for as it continued being played out with pure glee.

The story arc of Shosanna Dreyfus may run typical of a revenge flick, where the victim swears vengeance over her once German hunter, but thanks to Melanie Laurent's luminous presence as Shosanna, it got elevated to a lot more as she held her own, allowing you to sympathize with her plight and steely resolve in her mission. This arc is also one of the most beautifully shot (especially the scenes in the movie theatre), having importance as the melting pot primed for regime change. Filled at every moment with nuggets of cinema information that only Tarantino can weave together in an engaging fashion, it even features a movie-in-movie directed by Eli Roth, who had also donned his acting hat as one of the Basterds.

Tarantino continues to leave his indelible mark on modern cinema, and like the final, permanent branding, this film has certainly served to be the masterpiece reflective of what he does best. Definitely worth repeated viewings just to lap up all the gems you've missed the first time round.

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