One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in Pulp Fiction, where Bruce Willis has just saved Ving Rhames from an incredibly unpleasant fifteen minutes inside Zed the Policeman’s sex dungeon. As Bruce is holding a sword to Zed’s chest, we hear the sound of a shotgun being racked right before Ving Rhames says, “Step aside, Butch.” The whole things ends with a gaping hole in Zed’s hip and the famous line, “I’m gonna get medieval on your ass!” The point I’m trying to make with this long-winded and mostly irrelevant preamble is that I get giddy every time I hear there’s a new Tarantino movie on the way. I first heard about Inglourious Basterds about nine years ago. I’ve been giddy for a long time.
You already know what the movie’s about. Brad Pitt and the Basterds spend their time in World War II France “doin’ one thing, and one thing only. Killin’ Nazis.” There’s more to it than that, though, as the Basterds are being tracked by SS Colonel Hans Landa, aptly nicknamed The Jew Hunter. Elsewhere in France, a young cinema operator plots revenge against those who murdered her family. We’d feel selfish asking for anything else.
As opposed to Tarantino’s other films, I really felt there was something different about Inglourious Basterds. I loved Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs was great, and Pulp Fiction goes without saying. But if I had to describe Inglourious in a word, it would be “restrained.” The characters aren’t as over the top as in his other films, and for all its violence, that’s not the movie’s focus. The focus is on the more subdued, dialog-heavy scenes that really make up the bulk of the film, and really show off its ensemble cast. I don’t mean any of this as a knock against Tarantino. I think it shows how far he’s come as a storyteller.
As much as Brad Pitt’s role in the movie has been talked up, I don’t even think he’s even in a majority of it. He steals every scene he’s in, though, with his Tennessee drawl and Marlon Brando chin. Aldo the Apache, as he’s called, stands easily amongst Tarantino’s great characters, Jules, Beatrix Kiddo, or Mr. Blonde. For me, two of the movie’s biggest gets were Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent, who play Hans Landa and cinema operator Shosanna Dreyfus. Waltz plays an SS colonel with an almost unbelievable sense of devilish glee. Laurent plays Landa’s victim with such a subdued sense of brooding that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off of her. Also she’s hot.
Oh yeah, the violence. Some of the things done to the characters in the film are truly horrible. People are shot in the head, stabbed in the head, and smashed in the head with baseballs bats. At first, it may make you feel a little uncomfortable. You realize how desensitized to violence you’ve become, and you hang your head in shame as you remember how sweet and innocent you were as a child. Then you remember that the people being hurt are Nazis, and the world somehow rights itself. I think it’s an important lesson for children to learn. Violence is fun, as long as the person you’re being violent toward deserves it. They said something about that on Sesame Street a couple of weeks back. Anyway, if you haven’t already, get out to the theaters and see this one. It’s definitely one of Tarantino’s best, and was definitely worth the wait.