Quentin Tarantino’s movies tend to be polarizing. His fans love his trademark snappy dialogue, while his critics regard it as artificial and overwrought. His unflinching, stylized violence is loved by his fans, loathed by his critics. His fans love his homages to other films and genres, while his critics point to them as signs of weakness, of an artist reduced to copy his influences rather than building from them. In short, the very things that bring him legions of loyal fans also cause scores of people to dislike him. With his latest film, Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino brings all of his signature elements to a WWII story. Will he be able to finally convince his critics that his ultra-violence, foul language, and film cliches are actually art? Or will it simply be more fodder for the fanboys?
From start to finish Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino’s most complete and mature film. The characters are well-conceived and well-portrayed. The cinematography is lush and beautifully framed. The story, told in Tarantino’s typical out-of-sequence fashion, is filled with tension and humor, and passes quickly despite its 153 minute runtime. The violence is kept to short bursts and used to great effect, particularly in the film’s masterful climax. In short, if his critics don’t like this film, they won’t like anything he does.
Tarantino has been known for bringing iconic characters to the screen. From Jules Winnfield to The Bride, he’s crafted characters that are strong, unique, and impossible to ignore. He adds to that canon with a duo of opposing powerhouses: Lt. Aldo “The Apache” Raine and Nazi Col. Hans Landa.
Brad Pitt’s Raines is the leader of The Basterds. He’s a smartass country boy, intent on inflicting as much terror as possible on the Nazis. He’s funny, he’s brutal, and he commands respect. He’s a memorable character, but he’s no match for Hans Landa.
Landa is possibly the most interesting, complex, and fully-realized character Tarantino has ever written. He’s the epitome of the charming villain. Played impeccably by
German Austrian actor Christolph Waltz, Landa is charming, polite, and, at times, amiable. But underneath that facade he is a ruthless, opportunistic killer. Somehow Waltz manages to get both sides of this character across with his powerful, yet subtle performance. How good of a villain is Landa? In a movie that features Hitler, there’s no doubt that Landa is the real villain.
Call me a Tarantino fanboy if you want, but I loved Inglourious Basterds. So much so that I think it’s my favorite Tarantino movie.
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