There are lots of people (guys mostly) who are able to memorize and recite an endless amount of statistics about multiple sports, teams, and players. They can tell you the years that certain teams won championships, who scored when during certain games, and what records each of those players set. They can tell you when people were drafted and in what order. And they can tell you how much each player gets paid and if said player deserves their salary.
I’ve never been able to do that.
Instead, I’m able to tell you almost everything there is to know about most movies. I can play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” with the best. I can tell you who won an Oscar for what movie in which year. I can tell you why Alfred Hitchcock should be credited with inventing the suspense movie. I can tell you how bad movies can be good and why Robert Downey Jr. might be the savior of American cinema.
I’m what some people call “a movie guy.”
And it’s for this exact reason that I’ve always felt a little out of the loop in regards to the films of Quentin Tarantino. I mean, every movie lover supposedly loves Tarantino. But I never have. I didn’t see Reservoir Dogs until about 4 years ago, and I hated it. I’ve only seen one scene from Pulp Fiction (no, I’m not going to say which one) and I wasn’t impressed. And I refused to see either part of Grind House on the grounds that humans transforming into things (like zombies) scares the poodle out of me. Although I did enjoy both Kill Bills… But for the most part I’ve always felt that I just didn’t get why people like these movies so much. But I have to say, with Tarantino’s dive into the world of World War II spaghetti westerns with Inglourious Basterds, I get it. And I love it.
Inglourious Basterds is basically two stories running parallel to each other and, in the last half hour or so, converging, and even crashing, together. The first story is that of Shoshanna Dreyfuss, who is hiding with her family in a dairy farm from the occupying Nazi army in 1941 France. After her family is slaughtered by Colonel Hans Landa and his soldiers, Shoshanna flees to safety. Four years later we meet her again in Paris, where she now owns and operates a movie theater.
The second story involves the titular group of soldiers. Led by Brad Pitt’s Lieutenant Aldo Raine, the Basterds (a name given to them by the survivors of their attacks) are a small group of American (and two European) Jewish soldiers dropped into France in civilian clothes tasked with only one thing: killing as many Nazis as they can. As the stories progress, they eventually intersect in Shoshanna’s movie theater at the premiere of a Nazi propaganda film where, in a giant departure from history, Tarantino stages a giant, fiery, bullet-riddled, and bloody conclusion.
Before I get to what I loved about this movie, I’m going to go ahead and state the one thing that I didn’t like: the running time. The movie clocks in at 2 hours and 32 minutes and, for all of Tarantino’s attention to detail and great dialogue, feels like about 30 minutes could have been cut to make it a little tighter. There, now that that’s out of the way, we can get to the good stuff.
There are a few performances in this movie that need to be celebrated. The first and most obvious is that of Christopher Waltz as “The Jew Hunter,” Col. Hans Landa. The accolades Waltz has received so far are very much deserved, as he totally stole this movie. Never before have I seen someone who can be both totally polite and completely terrifying at the same time. The opening scene in which Landa interrogates a French dairy farmer about whether or not he’s hiding people in his farm is a marvel. Landa slowly, and completely with his words, picks apart the farmer until he crumbles and submits to his will.
Secondly, Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine is one of the most fun characters I’ve seen on screen all summer. Everything, from his Tennessee accent to his carefully groomed mustache, brought immediate joy to the screen whenever he appeared. His first speech to the group has been shown in countless promotions for the movie, and is just a small taste of how much fun Pitt has in the movie.
After seeing some other movies this summer that surprised me by getting by with a PG-13 rating (I’m looking your way Transformers 2), the R rating that Inglourious Basterds received seems to be based on Tarantino’s reputation alone. There’s a minimal amount of cursing and, up until the end of the movie (and compared to his other films), only a moderate amount of violence. But what violence shows up is graphic in nature.
If you’re looking for a great adventure, shoot-‘em-up, historical revisionist take on World War II, Inglourious Basterds is a fun ride. Just make sure you don’t take a large Coke in with you. You’ll regret it.
Josh Treece wants to learn French and German. Anyone want to teach him? When he’s not dreaming of ordering at a French café, he’s ministering to teenagers.