I used to like Quentin Tarantino. His movie were in a league of their own. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction wer, and still are, brilliant. He was also a great writer of dialogues and scripts, and I enjoyed From Dusk Till Dawn and True Romance all the more for it. I haven't, however enjoyed any of his recent works. Kill Bill 1 and 2 was an exercise in self-indulgent, and the first half of Death Proof was a crashing bore. So I wasn't really expecting much from his supposed "World War II epic" Inglorious Basterds, and that's a good thing, because I left the theatre less disappointed for it.
What I liked, a somewhat idiosyncratic list:
Hans Landa: Wow. Just, wow. I haven't seen a more chilling, creepier villain in recent times. He was an outstanding character, and fantastically brought to life by Christoph Waltz. He's going to storm hollywood oon, having already landed the role of the villain in the new Dreen Hornet movie. Awesome! He rightly deserves his Cannes best actor award.
Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz: The only interesting Basterd. Which is ironic because he wasn't even one of the nine of the original American squad. He's a German recruited in Germany. A traitor, really. Til Schweiger did a fabulous job, and would have single-handedly destroyed the rest of the Basterds in Mortal Kombat. Hah!
Bridget von Hammersmark & the clandestine basement operation: A very short, yet pivotal part, played out way better than deserved by Diane Kruger. it certainly helped that she was absolutely gorgeous! This Clandestine Basement Meeting was hands-down my favourite sequence in the movie. It so aptly demonstrated Murphy's Law, wherein anything that can go wrong, will. It was an incredibly well written scene, that reminded me in some ways of the what-if car-crash sequence in Benjamin Button. Anyway, this scene also had one of Tarantino's directorial trademarks, the Mexican Standoff, and the shoot-out at the end was simply fabulous.
Shoshanna's plot: The only parts of the movie that felt like a cohesive story. If Tarantino had elected to completely edit away the rest and make the movie only about Shoshanna, I couldn't be happier. Infact, if I will ever get 'round to watching this movie on tv, I'll skip through all the frivolousness and just watch her scenes.
What I didn't like, an unfortunately more complete list:
The Basterds: The movie title is misleading, because the basterds are hardly in the movie. but I'm not complaining, because this uninteresting bunch of rag-tags felt more like charicatures, than serious characters. Brad Pitt's Aldo The Apache talked and behaved like a redneck hick (which he probably was, seeing as how he sold bootleg liquor, and apparently escaped a mob lynching), and was a very bad choice to be the face of the movie. The Bear Jew, supposedly an important character, was reduced to a symbol that played out in exactly one scene, and spent the rest of the movie merging in with the scenery. And the other seven in the squads, heck they were faceless cannon-fodder.
Old wine in a new bottle: That's what Tarantino's direction felt like. There really wasn't anything fresh or exciting here. It just felt like he was recycling his older tricks, with less success. Quirky characters that turn out to be inconsequential, older American Music totally out of place in a movie set in Germany, a half-baked effort to get in some retro graphics, and so on.
The Score: Seems like Tarantino can't look beyond his favourite record collection. I was expecting some really good German music, or something suited to a World War II movie, but no, we get some more retro American stuff. Which in itself isn't bad, but an absolute misfit here.
Character Treatments: All through this movie, major characters are built up, and then do absolutely nothing, and something totally out of character. The Bear Jew appears as a terriying baseball-bat-psycho in exactly one scene, and does nothing for the rest of the movie. Aldo The Apache shows no realy leadership abilities, nor does he do anything that really distinguishes him. Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz is the only Basterd who gets an awesome back-story, but is once again reduced to mere cannon-fodder, and knocked off without real glory. Worst of all, is what happens to Hans Lands. His ending was atrocious, and a major disservice to him. The whole idea that he would even consider surrendering to the Americans seemed kind of lame. He just didn't seem like the traitorous or turn-coat types to me. Basically Tarantino built up his character, and had no idea what to do with him, so he got one of the worst endings possible. Pathetic.
This is a juvenile escapist fantasy, and not a very interesting one at that. I am, ofcourse, in the vast minority that didn't like it, as most of my other friends seem to act as if this movie is the cure for cancer. Cure for insomnia is more like it. I think Tarantino ought to stop hyping himself so much, and maybe skip directing for a while, in favour or writing. That's his strength, really. As a director, he's lately been just too self-indulgent.