Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Inglourious Basterds

And no, for those of you who don't know, that is not a typo, that is just as director Quentin Tarantino would say about the title, describing it as the "Tarantino way of spelling it," which pretty much sums up the entire mood of the film. Inglourious Basterds as I have checked has gotten a great amount of critical success, and those who are negative about the film are usually negative about Tarantino. To make this clear, I am currently neutral with Tarantino. He made two superb films in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, I missed Jackie Brown, Kill Bill was sorely underrated and I really did not like Death Proof. This review will be conducted with a completely unbiased view, seeing as how I still have enough respect for Tarantino after the blip on his CV that was Death Proof. Most who have not liked this film are always slandering what is the quintessential Tarantino style, that of fast-paced dialogue, stylistically excessive violence and non-linear storylines. Whether he likes it or not, that really is the Tarantino style. Anyway, this is not about Tarantino style, this is about his latest film. The story, or stories for better of a word, summed up in as few words as possible goes, that in Nazi-occupied France, two different plots are formed to destroy the Nazi leadership, that of a young French Jewish cinema proprieter and that of the eponymous "Basterds." Didn't do too bad did I? Once again like many of Tarantino's films, this is an episodic film with different interconnecting strands tying together the story. To start at the start, and at the good, the first chapter "Once Upon A Time... In Nazi-Occupied France" is a stellar piece of film-making, and perhaps one of the best extended openings to a film in a decade. The chapter perfectly establishes the first of the many plot strands in the film and also manages to encapsulate the mood of the film in one extended sequence. Furthermore, it establishes the villain of the piece, Colonel Hans Landa, played by the magnificent Christoph Waltz just about as well as one could possibly. He comes across in this scene as absolutely terrifying and completely sinister, yet the entire time there is an ironic and twisted sense of humour to be found in the fact that he is so polite and controlled the entire time. Very much the opposite of the stereotypical screaming Nazi, Waltz delivers a truly original performance which subverts the original perceptions of an evil Nazi, and will doubtless be imitated by many. Also, for a scene that is simply just dialogue, the camerawork is excellent, capturing the essence and mood of the scene to perfection, but not without maintaining a sense of stylishness. Also, the section is written fantastically, particularly for Waltz's Landa, giving him a great stepping stone for the rest of the film. Unfortunately, with such an amazing opening, it is perhaps inevitably a tough job to live up to, but never did I think the film would go so off the wall. Nonetheless, the film is not without it's pros outside of that incredible introduction. Brad Pitt plays a very solid comical/serious role in the leader of the "Basterds" Lt Aldo Raine. Nailing the thick Tennessee accent, Pitt both manages to parody the typical portrayal of the "tough guy" role, yet injects it with enough humour of his own to make his performance stand out in a typical leader role that could have seen him well overshadowed. Also, Melanie Laurent plays the French Jewish Shoshanna to the best of her capabilities, even if the role is ultimately a stereotypical one that needs rewritten. One role which hasn't been mentioned by critics and I think has been sorely overlooked is that of Martin Luttke as Adolf Hitler. His Adolf Hitler is a brilliantly and deliberately over-the-top portrayal of the dictator which fits in exactly right with the mood and tone of the film, which is just plain insanity. Also, as mentioned, the camerawork is very slick and the cinematography and editing makes the film look the part, so from a technical standpoint, two thumbs up. However, this is where the gribes are going to start, and boy does this critic have a lot of gribes. To start with the pithy, will Tarantino please stop casting his friends in his films because they are his friends?! I mean, Eli Roth in a main role. Eli frickin "Holy Christ, it's that guy who made that crap torture movie, yeah, Hostel man," Roth is in a main acting role. It is a role written simply for the purpose of having Roth in the movie. All he does is look expressionless. In all seriousness, if you were to mistaken Roth's face with some unmoving totem pole, you could quite easily forgiven. He is not wooden, this is solid stone. Also, with all due respect to Tarantino, this stands as proof that the guy has literally gone insane. I mean, people say that the great Werner Herzog is a madman. Madman or not, and I believe not, he's an artiste, to say that Herzog is a madman alongside the anarchy that is witnessed onscreen in Inglourious Basterds is like comparing The Wizard Of Oz and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here come the big grimes. For a start, the film is far too long and the script is completely unstructured and unneccessarily excessive. I'm not one of those people who likes my films prim and proper and unwilling to push boundaries, but this is not just overstepping the boundaries of sanity, this is quite dilligently defying all logic and meaning and is more close to the drawings of that of an inmate in Arkham Asylum. For starters, the film has way too many plot strands, and is at times like two or three different movies. An idea that came to my head just there was that Tarantino could have focused on one side of the story in each movie and attempted to make this movie his first franchise. Idea and a half eh? The worst example of this is the inclusion of the British in this film. This is a subplot which takes up between twenty and thirty minutes of the film, yet serves no purpose but to introduce Diane Kruger's character. Surely Tarantino has enough sense to write her in in a different manner? But no, he has been blinded by his own madness. In the scene in the British chapter in the bar, I in fact for the first time in ages felt the eyes going down and the dizzyness coming over my head. Yep, I very nearly fell asleep at Inglourious Basterds. With the film being as long as it was as well, I think if I fell asleep in this film I wouldn't have woke up, regardless of the noise and mayhem. Quentin, if you ever read this, I am sorry if I insulted you by calling you insane, but it's just that the first chapter was so tremendous and that I was so disappointed by the film's outcome after such great promise. Next time, in all seriousness, please please learn to compress your stories and make a lean mean machine of a film like we know you are able to. The story for Inglourious Basterds is too big for one film. That's why Kill Bill worked being released in two parts: as a four-hour piece together it works too, its just that you dedicate four hours to a story which is smaller than this story, which is two-and-a-half hours. Also, write less sub-plots as simple excuses to make time on the film. Finally, please don't rush your next film. Work on it and labour for it. This could have been your magnum opus, but instead you rushed too damn quickly to get the film out. I know you have been working on this film for the best part of a decade, but don't be so impatient. Paul Verhoeven had been working on 2006's Black Book since the end of the 1970's and spent six years after Hollow Man attempting to bring it to the screen before final realising his vision. So, in conclusion, while there is some solid acting, particularly from Christoph Waltz, who is certainly up for the end of year Best Supporting Male Actor awards, cinematography, editing and dialogue, the film is ultimately destroyed by it's structural flaws in it's script and plot and the uncontrolled anarchy which Tarantino presents onscreen, which is clearly a reflection of his direction and writing in this film.

On a further note, this has been hard for me to criticise, with my Dad having paid for VIP seats at the Oddyssey (£12 each!) and the fact that I do genuinely like Tarantino, so I hope you all appreciate the effort. Toodles!

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - 6.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Deeply saddened and disappointed.

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