Inglorious Basterds (2009 movie) review…

Inglorious Basterds (2009 movie) review after the break…

Inglorious Basterds (2009 movie) review…

To paraphrase a famous exchange, someone once asked a famous novelist why there were so many books written about the Confederate States of America. The author’s response was, simply, “Because they lost.”

The same exchange may well have been for Nazi Germany, a regime that aspired to stand for one thousand years but could not survive the rigors of a war it had brought onto itself. How ironic that the regime may yet survive for it’s 1,000 years – But not as the dominant government it thought for but as public domain villains who can be effortlessly inserted into almost any movie with little concern for retribution from our overly saturated politically correct world.

“Inglorious Basterds” is a 2009 film, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, which concerns itself chiefly with a plot to kill the Nazi’s leader, Adolf Hitler, while he attends a movie premiere.

When Quentin Tarantino dies, he is apt to be remembered for introducing to the cinematic world the mechanic of the “artful” conversation. How much “art” is contained in these long, drawn-out, often Rube Goldberg-like conversations is in the eye of the beholder. From his “Tipping Waitress” conversion in “Reservoir Dogs” to his “Royale with Cheese” conversation in “Pulp Fiction” to the “Superman” conversation in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2,” anyone attending a Tarantino written film is in store to hear more then a few conversations that will tempt even the most patient of souls from looking at their watch or cell phones. “Inglorious Basterds” is certainly no different and establishes quite early that this film is in lockstep (or should that be “goosestep”?) with his other efforts.

Unfortunately, the marketing of this movie has made for a few myths that will certainly disappoint those who actually attempt to view it in it’s entirety.

Firstly, those imagining themselves watching a Brad Pitt movie will be sorely disappointed. Brad Pitt does feature into the film but he is hardly the “star” – His screen time is appreciable but by no means dominant. Indeed, the exploits of the “Inglorious Basterds” (in this film, a group of Allied soldiers fighting the Axis with guerrila warfare) are hardly touched upon – The only operation we see from them in full is the operation to kill Hitler at the movie theater, an operation that doesn’t even establish itself until about 1/3rd of the way through the film.

Secondly, those imagining themselves watching a war movie will be even more sorely disappointed. There are few moments of actual action in this film – Prepare yourself to watch conversation after conversation after conversation with only the slightest bit of action thrown in, much like the chef Emil suddenly yelling “BAM!” to keep both cameramen and audience alike awake.

Artful conversations take time to deliver which explains the majority of the over two hour running time for this film. Amongst the chattier of the cast is Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, played like an effeminate Nazi counterpart to Tommy Lee Jones’ U.S. Marshal from “The Fugitive.” Every conversation from this character has ulterior motives and, even when they do not, he uses the Nazi’s reputation for brutality to make even the most innocent conversation overly tense and uncomfortable. In fact, one could make the argument that Landa’s character is more similar to Peter Falk’s character “Columbo” then that of the gruff but determined Tommy Lee Jones, who at least kept audiences awake with the occasional chase scene while pursuing Harrison Ford.

Indeed, the main tactic of this film seems to be “Have a Nazi talk to a non-Nazi and make them feel really uncomfortable because that Nazi might kill you at any given moment.” The problem with this tactic is that it keeps getting used over and over again until the tactic goes from tense to boring. Yes, we all know that Landa knows that the actress is lying; Yes, we all know that the Nazi SS Major suspects the English spy is really a spy and not a Nazi officer; Yes, we all know that Landa knows of the people hiding in the house. Enough. “Tense” works when it is used sparingly, not bludgeoning the viewer to death with each successive swing.

Although well made, well acted and well choreographed, one can’t help but wonder what this film would resemble if stripped bare of it’s elaborate prose. While it’s unfair to strip any work down to it’s bare essentials with any hope for it to retain it’s unique qualities, the elaborate prose hides several flaws in the film’s main plot which are simply inexcusable.

For instance, an essential part of the plot to kill Hitler is to barricade everyone inside the theater. What? Not a single Nazi outside in the lobby or even outside the theater? Not even a limo driver? Incredible.

Also, Hitler was known to be notorious for changing plans at the last moment – Meetings taking place hours after or before they were to be scheduled, meetings lasting far shorter then scheduled, last moment venue changes, changing planes or not taking planes at all… It is said that Hitler’s most effective bodyguard wasn’t a bodyguard at all but his unpredictability. Certainly, this historical quality could have been worked into the storyline to great effect – Imagine an entire plan (and lives) hinging on whether or not Hitler not only shows up but on time and how long he actually stays. Now that would have brought some genuine suspense to the third and final act of this film.

Cliches abound when one stops to examine the film – The survivors of a botched rendezvous fail to clean evidence that they were at the rendezvous site, giving the Nazis an easy time figuring that something is up; A jubilant Nazi is shocked – *shocked!* – When the Americans don’t hold to their side of a surrender bargain once the Nazi hands over his weapons; A woman who shoots a Nazi in the back fails to finish the supposedly dead Nazi off, only to be shot herself by the mortally wounded Nazi.

When thinking of “Inglorious Basterds,” I can’t help but think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s friends when Tolkien was reading excerpts to them from his “Lord of the Ring” novels, who couldn’t bear the thought of how many characters there were in his stories. To paraphrase what one of his friends famously lamented at one point when thinking of “Inglorious Basterds,” “Not another fcuking conversation!”

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