Inglourious Basterds; War/ Action, USA/ Germany, 2009; D: Quentin Tarantino, S: Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Til Schweiger, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl, Martin Wuttke, Mike Myers, Samuel L. Jackson (voice)
World War II. SS Colonel Hans Landa arrives with his unit at a French dairy farm and kills a Jewish family hiding in the basement, but one girl, Shosanna, manages to survive. 3 years later, Lieutenant Aldo Raine leads a team of 8 US soldiers, "The Basterds", who kill Nazis in a guerrilla warfare. In the meantime, Shosanna is owner of a cinema in Paris and is informed that it was chosen to host a premiere of a new Nazi propaganda film about a German sniper, Zoller. Since it is revealed that Goebbels and Adolf Hitler are going to attend the premiere themselves, the 'Basterds' are brought in to try an assassin. Landa stops them, but then let's them burn the cinema anyway and kill the Nazi elite in order to ensure himself immunity after the war. However, Aldo carves a swastika on Landa's forehead.Another half-masterwork by Quentin Tarantino: has sparks of high genius and passionate dedication to film that makes it consistently interesting, but again shows that the director is emotionally and spiritually illiterate. "Inglourious Basterds" are still much better than his previous two films, however, and helped him get an Oscar nod as best director, partially due to a good work and partially due to the fact that the Academy Awards are for some reason obsessed with World War II films. Christoph Waltz, who won the Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Oscar as best supporting actor, is phenomenal in the brilliantly written character of the evil SS Colonel Hans Landa, yet, bizarrely, the two main heroes are surprisingly bland characters - as good as Brad Pitt and Melanie Laurent play them, the only thing we find out about their protagonists Aldo Raine and Shosanna is that they hate Nazis, but generally they just 'tag along' and only stay in Landa's shadow, which causes an uneven mood.
When the bad guy has all the 'cool' moments and the heroes none, then it's a rather shaky concept. And it's not just the heroes - there are really many 'throw away' characters: almost all of the 8 members of the 'Basterds' are just extras, except for maybe Stiglitz (great Til Schweiger), whereas the character of "Bear Jew", who fights with a bat, seems as if he came from some Chuck Norris film. Adolf Hitler with that red cape also seems like some gross caricature from a stupid comic-book. Still, it's an fascinating departure from the director's usual genre: the story isn't as mean-spirited as it could have been, but much more disciplined, whereas there are neat references to classic films and artists, like Henri Georges Cluzot or Emil Jannings. Tarantino demonstrated his masterful touch only in the virtuoso Leone-Hitchcockian 20-minute opening sequence at the dairy farm (Landa chats with the farmer in his home while the suspense steadily grows when it is shown that a Jewish family is hiding under the basement) and, to some extent, in the 20-minute tavern sequence (with a dynamite moment where a British agent goofs with the German accent and attracts the attention of a SS Major who turns off the music and sits at his table) and the 2-minute shoe fitting-perpetrator identification scene (an exquisite detail!), while the rest is rather fluff with too much empty babble and action that will please more the Tarantino fans than the universal audience.