So yeah, quick one-line description: Inglourious Basterds is a Dirty Dozen takeoff that starts out like a cross between a fairy tale and a Sergio Leone western. By the time you hear Ennio Morricone's "After the Verdict" from The Big Gundown, with its haunting use of the first few notes of "Für Elise," the movie pretty much falls on the Leone side of the scales, an impression which is only reinforced when you realize the opening scene is meant to echo the first Angel Eyes scene in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. But don't be deceived. This is still a fairy tale, with fairy tale logic and a once-upon-a-time ending. It's Tarantino pointing to The Dirty Dozen and saying:
TARANTINO: The only reason to make a men-on-a-mission World War II movie is to kill Hitler, not a bunch of nameless generals.
AUDIENCE: But Hitler didn't die at the hands of a dirty-dozen commando mission.
TARANTINO: You mean historically? Sure. But do you see a history book here?
The correct answer? No. We're in a world where a band of Jewish-American commandos can go uncaptured in occupied France for four years, where a crack German sniper is a film geek, and where a hot German actress geso to a 1944 film premiere without wearing silky ribbed stockings on her feet. (Okay, her one good foot.) A world, in other words, where anything can happen -- and because it's Tarantino? -- it will happen. Count on it.
The one thing that doesn't happen? The over-the-top violence that everybody went nuts about in Kill Bill 1&2. This is going to piss off rabid Tarantino fans who want to see somebody or something 'sploding blood every ten minutes for two-and-a-half hours; and while there are (of course) moments like that in IG, they're lobbed in like hand grenades rather than sprayed at you like machine gun bullets. What you get instead are words, words that sizzle like a slow-burning fuse or jump from speaker to speaker like a lit stick of dynamite in a Three Stooges short. In only one chapter does a conversation not end in violence; but in that chapter, the simple ordering of a glass of milk is what makes everything that's spoken afterwards tick like a time bomb waiting to go off. It's totally riveting, and all the more remarkable because it's almost entirely done in French and German with English subtitles. When was the last time you were on the edge of your seat during four subtitled set pieces? If your answer is "Never," then it will be when you see this movie.
Speaking of the writing: you'll read a lot of reviews which credit Tarantino with writing what film critics like to call great “set pieces.” Those of us in theatre call them something different; we call them “scenes.” And when you look at them from a theatrical point of view, you see that (whether he knows it or not) Tarantino as a writer is the spiritual son of Sam Shepard. Like Shepard, his speeches are jewels, but they’re set in plots that are made from borrowed paste. (At least Tarantino has plots; you say “plot” to Sam Shepard and he thinks “graveyard.”) In Tarantino’s case, his plots consist of
Answer: doesn't matter. Doesn't matter one bit to the movie on the screen. (The movie in your head is another matter.) What else doesn't matter? The fact that Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine is from Tennessee (hey -- just like Tarantino!) and part Cherokee (hey -- just like Tarantino!). What matters is that almost everything that Pitt utters with his cracker accent is totally fucking hilarious. And that's just the English; wait till you hear him speak Italian. Whenever Pitt was on-screen, I kept thinking of the Claude Rains exchange from Casablanca:
MAJOR STRASSER: You give [Rick] credit for too much cleverness. My impression was that he's just another blundering American.
CAPTAIN RENAULT: We musn't underestimate "American blundering". I was with them when they "blundered" into Berlin in 1918.
Because make no mistake: that's what the Americans in this movie are. A group of blunderers who fall into somebody else's assassination plot and blunder their way to the most surprising victory of World War II.
And because this is a movie, I also thought about the fact that the last time Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger were in the same movie, he was killing Eric Bana and she was screwing around with Orlando Bloom. And boy, if their Achilles and Helen had even one quarter of the charisma that both display in this flick? Troy would have been phenomenal. It's like Tarantino is saying "See what these guys can do with the right material?" And don't think he's not saying it. Tarantino films are always just as much about other films as they are about the one you're watching now. And this one? Even more so. Because based on who shoots the machine gun, and who sets the fire? It’s the filmmakers who kill Hitler.
And oh yeah -- that once-upon-a-time ending? It's a lot more blatant in the final shooting script than it is in the current cut of the movie: