'Inglourious Basterds' — think 'Pulp' with subtitles

Quentin Tarantino. You know, I have a love/hate relationship with his work. Love the dialogue, the brutality, the stylistic references and the humor he throws into every flick. However, I hate how long some of the stories feel, because with every turn that he takes that leads to a dead end, the movie becomes long,  frustrating and tiring. For example, I loved “Kill Bill Vol. 1”, but think I was one of five people on the planet that hated “Pulp Fiction.”

For me, “Inglourious Basterds” was a combination of all the things that I love and hate about Tarantino’s flicks. All of the good stuff and all of the bad was thrown in there.

First off, it’s long. And when I say long, I mean shifting in your seat because your ass is falling asleep long. It’s almost 2.5 hours, so if you’re going, get ready to sit and watch this whole thing unfold, because it does take its time getting there.

The good? The dialogue and the characters. Brad Pitt does a great job as Lt. Aldo Raine. Christopher Waltz is awesome as Col. Hans Landa, the SS detective charged with ridding France of Jews, and also the arch-nemesis of the “Basterds.” There are plenty of laugh-out-loud scenes, and when the carnage comes, it’s as you would expect from Tarantino — quick and brutal. And the rest of the cast, man, they all did a great job — especially since the film is mostly in French and German.

However, this brings up the bad. First off, most of this movie is subtitled, because it is in French and German. It could be a personal thing with me, but I loathe subtitled movies — mainly because I want to spend my time watching the flick, watching the faces of the actors or watching their body language — not reading.

Secondly, the “Basterds” themselves are a very small part of the movie — maybe 30-45 minutes tops. And that’s irksome, because they are who I went to see. You know how “8 Heads in a Duffel Bag” advertised Joe Pesci being in the movie, and he was in it for like 30 seconds? Well, this is the same thing: Advertisements makes this seem like it’s all Brad Pitt and his boys shooting up Nazis. However, it’s not. The primary focus becomes the story of Shosanna Dreyfuss, a young Jewish woman who escapes Landa’s murder of her family, and of Landa himself, which sets him up to be a ruthlessly detailed investigator, and a bad guy that you can’t wait to see get his. And while their characters and stories are interesting, I really wanted to see the Basterds kicking ass — not either of these two characters. I gotta admit, I felt a little duped.

Lastly, Tarentino sets up a few of the characters using the old Kung Fu flick style (like “Matsu, Tiger style”), but then promptly drops it as the movie takes on a darker, more serious tone. It sets up a feeling that anything dealing with the Basterds themselves is all fun and camp, but the real story is Shosanna and Landa. And again, they aren’t the characters that I went to see.

I can’t deny that this movie is entertaining. It is. I was really hoping to see more of Raine and the Basterds than the others, but the stories of Shosanna and Landa were interesting and fit in Tarantino’s style of story telling. So, in essence, think of this one more like “Pulp Fiction” and less like “Reservoir Dogs” in terms of story, and throw in subtitles. It has its moments, and it has a lot of quality writing and punch, but isn’t quite the movie that was advertised.

4 out of 5


3 Responses to “'Inglourious Basterds' — think 'Pulp' with subtitles”

  1. 1 rilaly
    August 21, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    That’s interesting. Thanks for the excellent review.

  2. 2 Mike
    August 28, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Just a related note (or unsolicited opinion, to be more accurate). I thought the first 15 minutes of ‘Basterds’ was some of the best movie making I’ve seen. Christoph Waltz was fantastic, and just about every other director out there could learn a lesson on building suspense and tension in a scene. When to use music, when NOT to use music, how to develop a character quickly and effectively. It was astonishingly good. I loved the movie, but that opening scene is just a masterpiece.

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