If ever anyone needed proof in this day and age that the auteur theory still holds some merit, they need only look at the films of Quentin Tarantino. His films seem to have a certain style and logic all their own, and his use of dialogue is always something to behold. Arriving on store shelves just in time for the Christmas holiday is Tarantino's latest work – and a perfect example of his style – Inglourious Basterds. The film has cast with international stars and a sprawling, multi-faceted plot which revolves around two attempts to kill Hitler in France during the Second World War. As with many Tarantino films, Basterds is divided into chapters and features several different story threads which come together as the film progresses.
Without spoiling the plot, the threads are most easily divided into three main stories, that of a Jewish woman, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who has taken on a false identity in France; a Nazi soldier who hunts Jews, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz); and a team of American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who are in France to kill Nazis with something of a "take no prisoners" attitude. These three stories all come together as the movie theater Shosanna runs is going to end up hosting the premiere of a new Nazi-made film, Landa is running security for the event, and Raine and his group are tasked with gaining access and killing premiere attendee Adolf Hitler.
It may sound like an entirely improbable set of events, and certainly over the course of the two-and-a-half hour runtime it goes far more in depth than described here, but save for the climactic scenes it feels completely believable. This is true for two very good reasons – not only is the cast a top-notch one, but as with all of Tarantino's films, the dialogue is absolutely superb. When these two things – the acting and the dialogue – are combined, what one is left with is an incredibly engrossing affair.
Tarantino, as has been well documented, has an encyclopedic knowledge of films and filmmaking, and this knowledge comes across in every movie he makes. Even the name of this film is a reference to an earlier movie, The Inglorious Bastards, about World War II. Of course, the negative side of this encyclopedic knowledge and his brilliant writing is that at times the film gets bogged down. There are several scenes in Basterds, most notably one in a bar, which run excessively long. As pieces of acting they're good, their well-written and well-directed, and if viewed by themselves might prove completely mesmerizing. However, when viewed as part of the whole film, one gets the sense that Tarantino may be his own worst enemy – these scenes significantly hurt the pacing of the film and if Tarantino wasn't as good a writer of scenes as he is, no one would ever have thought these should be included in their current state. To be fair to Tarantino and those involved in the movie, a longer version of the bar scene does exist in the special features, so some cutting was done, but it was not enough.