Take a Drink: every time Waltz speaks a new langauge
Take a Drink: whenever Waltz shows why he’s called “Apache”
Take a Drink: for bad accents
Take a Drink: whenever Waltz laughs or chuckles
Do a Shot: when tense standoffs explode into violence (or when you next breathe, anyway)
Do a Shot: for baseball
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
After a long and depressing week’s worth of classic films about the Holocaust watched after a recent trip to Auschwitz my wife and I knew there was only one film we could end the marathon with… Inglourious Basterds.
Reportedly, this is the perfect chaser for 12 Years a Slave
This is a signature Quentin Tarantino historical fantasy revenge epic, following a young Jewish woman hellbent on avenging her murdered family (Melanie Laurent), the talkative and deadly efficient “Jew Hunter” who did it (Christoph Waltz), and a band of Jewish Nazi-killing Basterds led by a matter-of-fact Tennessean out to collect as many “Natsi” scalps as he can (Brad Pitt) as their fates converge on a Paris theater packed full of just about every Nazi worth killing.
Coming off the relative disappointment of his Grindhouse segment Death Proof, Tarantino roared back with a, well, vengeance with Inglourious Basterds. His script and direction are utter joys to behold. The former is funnier than anything he’s ever done, packed with often pitch-black humor and obscure nuggets of knowledge, his dialogue and idiosyncrasies on glorious overdrive. The latter feels like a bold new direction (pun… intended?) for him. Even with its WWII setting, it’s undeniably a Spaghetti Western, his first in what looks like it’ll be a long, or at least intermediate, line.
Next Up: Hell Yes.
Sure, some of flourishes are cribbed from 60s and 70s WWII exploitation flicks, like the lettering and intertitles, but from very first scene Tarantino channels Sergio Leone more than Enzo G. Castellari. That scene owes more than a little to Once Upon a Time in the West, and the escalating setpieces of the script, full of slow-burning tension before bursting into vibrant flame, would have done the master proud, right up to the finale, which ends with a bang and a whimper… “Oui, Shoshanna” and the lighter, and Aldo Raine’s last “masterpiece”.
It goes without saying that Tarantino makes a bravura use of a dizzying array of music, from Ennio Morricone to David Bowie, and that he assembles a hell of a cast. It’s so good I forgot that Michael Fassbender and Daniel Bruhl have prominent roles, and includes everything from cameos from Lea Seydoux to Bo Svenson to Castellari himself to even… Mike Myers?
Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, B.J. Novak, Jacky Ido, and Til Schweiger get more substantive roles, and Laurent in particular gets a star-making chance as the silent, sexy, sad, and singularly driven Shoshanna, but this film really belongs to Pitt and Waltz. Pitt is transformed as the laconic, wry, zero-fucks-giving backwoodsman turned Nazi killer extraordinaire, his squint and deadpan delivery showing his finest comic chops yet. It’s Waltz, though, who steals this film and disappears into the night with it. Unknown to English-speaking audiences before the film, and tasked with playing a character who Tarantino thought “might have been un-playable”, he turned in an iconic performance as Hans Landa, the erudite, cunning, sarcastic, and evil yet charismatic Nazi you love to hate to love. It’s such a performance that it’s literally impossible to imagine any other actor in the role, and that Oscar on his mantel was well-earned.
There’s a nasty, violence-glorifying streak to this one, even over and above typical Tarantino fare, that always left a slight bad taste in my mouth. Past Tarantino protagonists had shown at least a shadow of compunction about killing, but the majority of the characters here are positively giddy at the chance. Suffice it to say, thi sis far from an appeal to the best aspects of our nature.
Even if this sure as hell would’ve been a convenient end to World War II
Inglourious Basterds is a stylish, blood-soaked aria of cathartic historical slaughter like only Tarantino can deliver.