If only Quentin Tarantino the director werenât so completely in love with Q.T. the writer, âInglourious Basterdsâ might have been a great movie rather than just a good movie with moments of greatness. Scenes of his wildly revisionist World War II saga have a wonderfully palpable tension, but then he undermines them by allowing them to go on too long.
Everything thatâs thrilling and maddening about his films co-exists and co-mingles here: the visual dexterity and the interminable dialogue, the homage to cinema and the self-glorifying drive to redefine it, the compelling bursts of energy and the numbingly draggy sections.
And then there is the violence, of course: violence as a source of humor, as sport, violence merely because it looks cool on camera, and because the 46-year-old Tarantino still has the sensibilities of a 12-year-old boy.
As for the plot … well, it might be in there somewhere among the many meandering threads. In one of them, âInglourious Basterdsâ follows a band of Jewish American soldiers, led by twangy Tennessean Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who hunt Nazis not just to kill them but to scalp them.
âInglourious Basterdsâ also intertwines the stories of Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent); Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the cool but cruelly conniving Nazi colonel who orchestrated that attack; German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger); and Nazi war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). All these characters converge one night at Shosannaâs movie theater, where their various ambitions and murder plots collide.
âInglourious Basterdsâ may be Tarantinoâs most artfully photographed film next to his âKill Billâ movies, with spaghetti Western touches at the beginning eventually giving way to dramatic noir imagery by the end.
But for every inspiring moment or performance â Waltz especially stands out â Tarantino frustrates in equal measure.