Some Seriously Glourious Basterds

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Okay, I know I'm a little behind the bandwagon on this, but I FINALLY got around to seeing Inglourious Basterds tonight, and I have to say...


I'm not usually a huge Quentin Tarantino fan... I like him, but I always feel like he recycles his same bag of tricks, and he never feel like he lives up to the hype. Pulp Fiction was good, Reservoir Dogs was okay, I hated Jackie Brown, and I only saw Part One of Kill Bill.

But Inglourious Basterds... is easily-- for me, anyway-- his best movie to date.

For those of you who don't know the story, it's a piece of revisionist history about a group of renegade American soldiers dropped into France to hunt, kill, and literally scalp Nazis.

The event at the heart of the story is the upcoming premiere of Joseph Goebbell's newest film, so like all Tarantino's movies, this is as much a celebration of film as it is its own work. Yet while Basterds is the movie most blatantly about movies, it's also the movie where Tarantino is finally applying his traditional cinematic tricks and moves to something culturally and historically larger than pop culture and film. I mean, maybe it's just a typical movie disguised in a Nazi-France costume, but it certainly felt to me like he was growing as an artist.

Also, there was lots of great violence.

Like, great violence. (The final, terrificly bloody scene is some off-the-charts wish fulfillment. And the build-up to the climax is so tense I was literally gasping and convulsing in my seat.)

What most impressed me from a screenwriting standpoint, however, was how LONG many of the scenes were. One scene, in particular, takes places over drinks and a card-guessing game in a basement bar. In this scene, which is probably 10-15 minutes, the Basterds-- disguised as SS officers-- are meeting their contact, a German actress/spy. Unfortunately, a real Nazi suspects these guys are imposters and decides to join them for a drink.

The scene that unfolds-- the men getting to know each other, playing a card game, etc.-- plays out very similarly to how it would play out if these were simply civilian strangers meeting for the first time. But because we know the SS officers are Basterds... and because we suspect the Nazi knows, too... the scene is laden with an inherent tension that sustains for it 10-12 minutes longer than any other movie would dare to try. The dialogue itself, while snappy and witty, isn't what carries the scene; it's the latent tension, the danger brewing because we know these men's secret. It's an incredible scene-- and a terrific lesson in how the right dramatic information, carefully placed, can hold an audience's attention for as long as it needs to. Not many other filmmakers could pull that off.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it... DON'T MISS IT. It's probably my second-favorite movie this year (just behind Up, which is so mind-blowingly wonderful I can't talk about it without spending another two hours at the computer).

P.S. Inglourious Basterds also deserves a nod for coolest use of a Bowie song...