After the gross exercise in smug self-indulgence that was Kill Bill and the sadly inconsequential tackiness of Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino looks to be back on form in the utterly demented joy that is Inglourious Basterds.
The film – for those of you who have been living in a hermetically-sealed cave on Mars for the last eight months – concerns a group of Jewish American soldiers parachuted into occupied France with the sole intention of being total, well… basterds to any Nazi unfortunate enough to encounter them. Running parallel to this is another story of vengeance, this time concerning Shosanna Dreyfuss (Mélanie Laurent), a Jewish girl whose family was murdered by the infamous ‘Jew Hunter’ Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz).
While it’s not perfect, Inglourious Basterds does a pretty good job of living up to Tarantino’s finest movies. The whole piece whips along at a frenetic pace, simultaneously managing to be grimly realistic and one of the most insanely anarchistic bits of moviemaking in recent memory. A badly miscast Mike Myers aside, every actor appearing is firing on all cylinders, with Brad Pitt’s psychotic Aldo Raine and Mélanie Laurent’s careful plotter deserving particular praise. Don’t get too attached to any of the characters though – all bets are off. Tarantino happily wipes out his characters without warning, which only adds to the excitement as the plot drives relentlessly forward.
This isn’t some careful, sombre study of war; it’s a Boy’s Own comic made flesh. The ending is shocking, surprising, yet somehow fitting. If it hasn’t been ruined for you yet, you’ve really got a treat in store. But where its OTT plot, characterisation, dialogue and direction will make many a film fan squeal with glee, Tarantino’s predilection for the overblown may well put a few people off – very occasionally, it does veer a little too close to the Just Plain Dumb. His trademark self-indulgence also rears its head, though not in as blatant and alienating a fashion as Kill Bill. Inglourious Basterds is a triumph on a lot of levels; what small faults remain are forgiveable when the whole is such a mad, explosive joyride from start to finish.
Nation’s Pride featurette
Extended and alternative scenes