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Inglourious Basterds is a Basterd of a Movie

Published August 21, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of TWC
Inglourious Basterds Poster Inglourious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds is one basterd of a movie. I think it’s a deliberate exercise in making the audience antsy. While I can appreciate that as an art film, I don’t enjoy the experience.

Review: Inglourious Basterds

It definitely feels like Quentin Tarantino in World War II. There are Pulp Fictiony elements applied to the period and genre differences. He builds tension with non sequiturs in inordinately long scenes. Just when you’re really getting antsy, he reveals something and the scene pays off. This isn’t as fun as pop culture debates but it’s not an irresponsible accident.

It’s still frustrating waiting for the meandering scenes to pay off. They do, but come on. The opening scene is 20 minutes. More than half the dialogue is in French or German. Who wants to hear Quentin Tarantino dialogue in a foreign language, thus having to read it? Plus, if you’re stuck behind a guy with a big head, as I was, you have to strain for nearly two hours of film time trying to read around him.

There are very few fun moments. That may be appropriate. They are dealing with Nazi persecution of Jews and wartime atrocities. The fun moments are earned by the weight of the drama. That makes the film an exercise with little fun.

Every scene is about the constant pressure of inane inquiry. Some characters have something to do but some well meaning passerby is holding them up with chit chat. The dialogue is designed to be purposefully innocuous, but it’s really B.S. That’s the point, but it’s really not cool after a while. We get a lot of repetition too as characters fill each other in. You may have to report back but we already know what just happened.

At least it’s got build in pee breaks. You could leave when a new scene (any new scene) begins, come back and still get the effect of 15 minutes of inane talking before the sh*t goes down. Or after anything actually happens, count on a good few minutes of retelling the previous scene to new characters.

The Nazi colonel is scary with his vicious friendliness. His prolonged banter is the biggest psyche out because he’s exactly as intimidating as he wants to be, under a guise that you could never call him out for. It’s all threatening implications to make you antsy. That’s pure tension, but real tension is not fun tension. <P> It kind of shows how much time is wasted socializing in any situation. Even if you’re not under threat of being discovered by Nazis, sometimes you have stuff to do and people want to tell you about some nonsense. Hey, we’re trying to conspire against Nazis here! Leave us alone.

It’s got the explosive violence that happens sporadically but even that is derivative now. It’s a rehash of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and True Romance. Just add costumes and accents. If it’s not as effective as 15-year-old movies, you can’t get away with it.

Most disappointingly, the Basterds are hardly in it. Perhaps that’s the point of letting their legend carry their few on screen antics, but honestly, you don’t get what you pay for. It’s like a trick, putting Brad Pitt on the poster. If you thought there wasn’t enough Michael Keaton in Batman

It’s still rather predictable by the tropes of the genre. As bold as some of the choices are, they’re ultimately pointless.

All that said, in the days following the screening I’m still reflecting on all that Inglourious Basterds achieved, be it my own visceral antsiness or the long building scenes. I think I like the idea of it more than the experience of it, but it seems likely I’ll give it another chance, now that I know what it is, and when I can watch it in private on Blu Ray with my laptop open.

Beyond that, my really specific thoughts on the film involve spoilers. So I’ll leave my review at vague judgments with little evidence in the interest of preserving the experience, however successful, for those who see it.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of TWC

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