Quentin Tarantino once again displays his penchant for writing dialog. Unfortunately he also displays his inability to make edits.
In the generally slow-paced 153 minutes of Inglourious Basterds we are introduced, all too briefly, to Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who has put together a crack squad of Jewish American soldiers known as “the Basterds,” whose mission it is to terrorize the Third Reich in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The Basterds are extremely efficient at what they do, though we only experience their skills in a few gore-filled scenes. Pitt’s character yields appreciative laughs in virtually every scene he is in, but we get little insight into the characteristics and personalities of the Basterds.
Instead of focusing on the truly intriguing Basterds, the film tends to bog down in the story of Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young Jewish girl who escapes the capture of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and ends up running a theatre in France. Due to the affections of German war hero Fredrick Zoller for Dreyfus, said theatre is scheduled for the screening of a film about Zoller attended by every major Nazi officer. Dreyfus plans her revenge for the death of her family at the hands of the Nazis, while the Basterds also plan an assault on the theatre.
For the most part Tarantino’s dialog is entertaining, but the subtitles in many scenes slow down conversations already losing steam. The efforts to pull stories together as done in past outings seems extremely forced here, and there is simply too much focus on the story taking place at the theatre, which only leaves the audience longing for Raine and his Basterds.
Though Pitt’s character is entertaining, the best performance in the film is that of Christof Waltz as Landa, the German security officer who manages to create tension and comedy from one scene to the next as his character runs the gambit of levels. Performances by such comedic talents as Mike Myers and B. J. Novak tend to be wasted due to lack of use.
The project does manage to look and sound great as Tarantino creates a film that displays an authentic sense of the era, while adding music that energizes.
Recommendation: The unnecessary gore will turn many off as will the extremely long, subtitled, dialog-driven scenes. A simple action film focused on the Basterds a la The Dirty Dozen would have made for better summer fare.