Quentin Tarantino has always been known for his glorification of violence and his abuse of irony; his latest feature, Inglourious Basterds is no exception. Once considered an auteur with a distinct voice and vision, the strings have with time become only more visible when one considers his penchant for blending genres.
Centering on a kamikaze squad of Jewish soldiers seeking revenge for the crimes committed against their people and led by Aldo “the Apache” Raine (Brad Pitt), they eventually find a more coherent purpose when Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is sent by Churchill himself to blow up a movie theatre in the centre of Paris where the majority of the German high command will be present for the premier of Joseph Goebbels’ (Sylvester Groth) newest feature; Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), the famous actress and double agent provides the prerequisite cover to get them into the event.
A story running concurrent to this is that of Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) who sees the ideal opportunity to seek revenge for the murder of her family with Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) also in attendance….
If this seems as long winded and redundant in detail as most Tarantino projects appear, Basterds is different in all but one way – where the others often feed from their complex and convoluted nature, this is nothing more than a complacent and thoroughly self-gratifying amputee. Quentin has essentially lost his mojo.
Where once there was wit, now there only exist bloated scene punctuated by equally banal dialogue that hinge on ironies that are at best capable of inducing mere chuckles and revel in their adherence to prior conventions. Whereas Pulp Fiction used the mundane discussion of quarter pounders to contrast the bloodied acts of the characters involved, such ironies never come to fruition here as the violence in Basterds equates to little more than uncomfortable winces. The only thing that makes the dialogue worse is that Tarantino added length to the film as a whole since its premier at Cannes, the overall victim being a scene involving a guessing game in a Nazi filled cellar.
Most claim that we should find joy in how the piece essentially acts as “revenge porn”, the situation most Jews and more specifically, American Jews would enjoy but how can one delight in a fantasy situation which goes to such lengths in its overall historical accuracy? The acting helps even less, although Laurent and Waltz establish themselves as formidable actors (and they are the only saving grace of the entire piece), it only highlights how insignificant and wooden Pitt’s portrayal is in relation (something not helped by his character being extremely atypical in his sympathies for the Jewish Basterds).
Tarantino has often overplayed his hand with regards style over substance but never to such disastrous effect as here, the strings visible with every shift of genre in an already crippling running time of 153 minutes.
Unfortunately without either to sustain it, Basterds as a whole never hits the ground running, rather descending into sophomoric film school ideals before the credits have even ended.