Quentin Tarantino is a hit-or-miss director. Regardless of your feelings about him, I believe few would argue that Inglourious Basterds is his best film to date since Pulp Fiction.
Yes, as many viewers have stated, Basterds' biggest – and only – downfall is perhaps Tarantino’s gratuitously lengthy dialogue. However, the deceptively blasé exposition always seems to manufacture sharp moments and thrilling conclusions. Inglourious Basterds is the kind of movie that most certainly wouldn’t get the cast, attention, and studio faith it did if it weren’t for Tarantino’s name. It’s a jarring transition out of a year of slam-bang sci-fi action fests; it’s easy to label it as boring. The pacing is slow. The action is sparse (although marketed otherwise). Basterds will be hard to swallow for some, refreshing for others. But make no mistake — it’s a whole lot of fun if you know what to expect and even better if you’re a big Quentin Tarantino fan.
The film is split up into chapters that help reassure the audience that the gradual pace of Basterds is building up to something. Each chapter is very particular in its development, lending heavily toward your adoration or disdain for the characters and your eagerness to find what it’s all going to add up to. And boy, does it certainly add up. The final chapter of Basterds is worth every word that is uttered, every man that is killed, and every gag that is played. The close is nothing less than sensational and extraordinarily satisfying.
If it weren’t for the humor, Tarantino might have a hard time keeping an audience. It’s a relief that Inglourious Basterds delivers on the laughs. Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine, the leader of the Basterds, carries most of the humor. His performance is solid, albeit with a flawed accent. Pitt has never been good with accents, so I wasn’t surprised. Eli Roth plays right hand to Pitt’s Raine as Donny Donowitz, aka "The Bear Jew". Roth earns the most ‘cool’ points as a man who gets his kicks by personally brutalizing uncooperative Nazi captives. Opposite Pitt is Christoph Waltz as the hate-worthy antagonist Hans Landa. His performance earned him the Best Actor Award at the 62nd Annual Cannes Film Festival and it’s easy to see why. He is painfully easy to detest and addictive to watch.
Christoph Waltz as the love-to-hate-him Hans Landa
Across the board, the cast delivers their lines effortlessly and with conviction, making it easy to believe the story, as zany and as historically inaccurate as it may be. From top to bottom, the film is very well made with the exception of a flaw commonly mentioned by viewers and critics alike. The dialogue is both its shining star and biggest problem. Some judicious editing of 15 or 20 minutes of exposition and this would unarguably be Tarantino’s masterwork.
Unfortunately, because of how often it seems to drag, it’s hard to recommend Basterds to casual moviegoers or even casual fans of Tarantino – especially considering what the trailers suggest.
As wary as I am to recommend everyone go out and see it, Inglourious Basterds does deliver. If you are a patient film viewer and deep lover of the art, you will be rewarded in spades with gut-busting hilarity, heart-pounding action, and palm-sweating suspense. This is what every Tarantino fan has been waiting for. This is his best yet and a generous treat for his fans.