Shariah law can't stop what it doesn't expect.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Those Basterds

***WARNING: Contains Some Spoilers***

I must admit I've spent the last month looking forward to Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" with the enthusiasm of a 12 year-old girl following the next "Twilight" movie- or that of a 19 year-old girl; disturbingly, there's not much difference.

From what commercials I'd seen, I walked into the theater expecting 2 hours of Brad Pitt killing the uncensored and glorious crap out of Nazi after Nazi. Which would have left me more than satisfied.

Sad to say, by the end, there hadn't been nearly as much Pitt-on-Nazi violence as I'd've liked. There was some, but not nearly enough from what I was expecting. The movie is more plot-oriented rather than violence-focused- which I guess is the true mark of a great filmmaker; Tarantino didn't succumb to the temptation of making a 2 hour Nazi holocaust- and there are some pretty long scenes, Pulp Fiction style. Unfortunately, most of these scenes are full of superficial pleasantries exchanged between Nazis and Basterds disguised as Nazis and reveal very little about the characters, whereas in Pulp Fiction, the long conversations focused on more thought-provoking topics and helped us glean some information from the characters (What do they call a France?) Too much of the movie feels wasted on this pointless banter, instigated primarily by the SS Detective introduced in the beginning as his sort of cat-and-mouse game with his suspects. These polite conversations drag on just long enough until the viewer begins to feel bored, but are then thankfully ended with a hostile twist in the conversation or a violent scene.

Pitt is grossly underutilized in this movie. His character, a Western-accented American Colonel with a mind focused on killin' them Nehtzis, shines brightest in the first (and really, only) scene between the Basterds and a group of Nazis they've captured. Pitt is calm and amusingly relaxed when informing the Nazis of the choices they have; do what the Basterds want, or die a painful, painful death. Most of the Jewish-American men Pitt has chosen to accompany him on his Nazi hunting spree rarely display any emotional animosity one would expect towards the Nazis, and instead laugh at their bigoted insults as an executioner laughs at a name the man on the chopping block has called him. Unfortunately, the story's plot doesn't allow for any more than one of these scenes, which is what the majority of the commercials advertised. Pitt offers an engaging performance, but sadly the film doesn't realize it to its full potential.

The plotline also follows one Shosana, a French Jew who escaped a Nazi shooting gallery of her family at a farm in the French countryside. After moving to Nazi-occupied Paris, Shosana opens up a cinema and eventually falls into the situation of hosting a premiere for Josef Goebbels new movie. The premiere will be attended by 350 top-ranking officials of the Nazi party. Shosana quickly becomes determined to burn down the entire theater with all 350 Nazis trapped inside. Meanwhile, Pitt and the Basterds undertake a mission to blow up the same theater with the same objectives. The Basterds and Shosana never meet, however, which allows for some loos threads after the climax of the movie. "Inglorious Basterds" is ultimately about assassinating the four topmost members of the Nazi high command (including Hitler and Goebbels) more than it is about bloody and explicit Jew-on-Nazi brutality

Not to say Basterds was a bad movie; it was great, it had several of its funny moments, and the acting is high-tier (though the German accent of the SS Detective sounds as authentic as a cardboard violin and twice as bland). And the comedic moments are funny enough to keep the entire theater laughing long after the joke's done. Just don't go into it expecting mass amounts of violence and Nazi-killing, or a great deal of Pitt screen-time. People should expect more "Pulp Fiction" than "Kill Bill".

Oh, and Mike Myers makes a surprise appearance.

-- 4 out of 5 stars--

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