By Guy Davis
With his long-awaited WWII movie ”Inglourious Basterds”, Quentin Tarantino telegraphs his intentions pretty early in the piece â€“ the first â€˜chapterâ€™ of the movie is titled â€˜Once Upon a Time in Nazi-occupied Franceâ€™.
The fairy-tale quality of that title indicates that realism maybe isnâ€™t Tarantinoâ€™s highest priority.
And it also conjures up memories of the great Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone, whose bold, bloody epics ”Once Upon a Time in the West” and ”Once Upon a Time in America” would appear to be among the many influences Tarantino has drawn upon for his own film.
So what youâ€™re getting with ”Inglourious Basterds” is another Tarantino tribute reel.
Just as the two-part ”Kill Bill” paid homage to Asiaâ€™s martial-arts pictures and ”Death Proof” honoured the hotted-up B-movie, this film is both his nod to the war story and his acknowledgement of European cinema thatâ€™s both high art and down-and-dirty.
From any other filmmaker, this relentless sampling would soon start getting stale. But Tarantinoâ€™s truly expansive knowledge of film history and pop culture, combined with his undeniable talents as a writer and director, gives him an edge.
Thereâ€™s no denying that ”Inglourious Basterds” is a bit of a tough sell â€“ itâ€™s an ultra-violent, ultra-talkative WWII fantasy with a mostly unfamiliar cast and a running time of nearly three hours, after all â€“ but those people on its wavelength will certainly find much to enjoy.
The â€˜basterdsâ€™ of the title are the US soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Aldo Raine, enjoyable played by Brad Pitt with a molasses-thick drawl and a manic glint in his eye. The squad has been dropped into France with a single objective: â€œKillinâ€™ Nat-zeesâ€.
And the basterds arenâ€™t the only ones targeting the Third Reich â€“ British officer Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) and German movie star Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) are collaborating on a top-secret plan to take out several high-ranking Nazis.
Then thereâ€™s Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), whoâ€™s willing to sacrifice everything to avenge the murder of her family at the hands of the charismatic but sadistic Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a.k.a. â€˜The Jew Hunterâ€™.
All their schemes converge at the Paris cinema run by Shosanna, where the Reichâ€™s top brass â€“ including Hitler himself â€“ are gathering to watch a propaganda film starring the German armyâ€™s sharpshooting hero, Friedrich Zoller (Daniel Bruhl).
Composed of five chapters, ”Inglourious Basterds” â€“ which takes its title from a 1978 Italian war movie â€“ showcases Tarantinoâ€™s skill-set in various ways.
He can conjure up a tremendous sense of tension by simply having two people talking. He can use a moment of horrifying violence to shift an audienceâ€™s loyalties. He can take a piece of music that shouldnâ€™t work at all â€“ a David Bowie track in a WWII movie? â€“ and make it seem like the perfect choice.
And once again, his eye for casting proves unerring. Everyone is excellent but the star here is little-known Austrian actor Waltz, whose seductively evil performance is kind of a masterpiece.