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It can be very interesting to see any artist, filmmaker or otherwise, try something out of his element. In Inglorious Basterds, though, Quentin Tarantino brings every bit of his element with him, something like the journey of Fitzcarraldo, hauling too much baggage through hostile, unfamiliar territory.

Like all Tarantino films since Pulp Fiction he uses 150 minutes of screen time to tell 90-110 minutes of story. A number of characters superfluous to the main plot exist. The one that really stuck out was German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark. I saw no reason for her role until she removed her shoe for Col. Hans Landa. It all came together at that point, being a Tarantino film and all.

Speaking of Col. Landa, while Christopher Waltz’s performance was quite good, I fail to see the grand appeal in this character. After 50+ years of representations of Nazis in film, among many, many other media, it takes more than a man skilled at detective work to impress me as a particularly notable villain. His opening bit of rousting a hidden Jewish family seemed neither markedly ruthless nor cunning, and his Cinderella-trap for Ms. Hammersmark fell short after the brutality to which he resorted.

The complicated multiple plots leading up to the dynamic conclusion of the film suit his storytelling style quite well, though they do take a long time to finally wrap up. The subplot featuring famed German marksman Frederick Zoller hitting on cinema owner Emmanuelle Mimieux meant next to nothing, save allowing a dramatic standoff, an extra kill and introducing the necessary film subplot, which didn’t need him to come about. I think most of Zoller’s role could be cut without much notice.

The film also loses track of the eponymous Basterds for a long stretch, which is a shame because, at the risk of their act growing repetitive, their sequences are the most energetic and captivating. A few more scrapes with German patrols could have livened up some of the longer stretches of the film. I wanted to see more of their beginnings, too, especially Brad Pitt’s “Aldo the Apache,” and to see the effect of their Boogeyman nature on the German soldiers. I felt this was hardly explored at all.

All of this does lead up to an unbelievable conclusion, making the getting there quite worthwhile. The visuals of the theater scene are incredible and the action really explodes off the screen at this point. Toys like glove-guns made me wonder how many more of the Basterds trick we missed out on in the meandering subplots. I wanted much, much more of that. I suppose I wanted an action film with gritty, pulpy touches instead of the pulpy sort of heist film with action touches provided. Still, even though I believe Tarantino made a very good film out of a great one again, it is that very good film. 3 ½ stars

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2 Comments

  1. I’m told that “Basterds” also has the distinction of rescuing David Bowie’s “Theme from Cat People” from the jaws of the movie it was written for, and restoring it to a place of relative cinematic honor.

  2. I didn’t recognize it but I wouldn’t be surprised.


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