Best Picture Profile: Inglourious Basterds

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Company: The Weinstein Company

Runtime: 153 minutes

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The film tells two parallel stories set during the World War II in Europe.

The first story is about Shoshanna Dreyfus, a naive Jewish girl who, after escaping a massive murder that killed all of her family, runs a cinema house in France. She is being persuaded by a German actor who she despises. But circumstances play in her life and she meets the one that ordered to kill her family, the charming but totally evil Colonel Hans Landa. She realizes that, using her humble cinema house, she could have her revenge to the Germans that have maltreated the Jews and, especially, to kill Hitler himself.

The second story is about the Basterds, a group of trained Jewish-American soldiers led by the suave Colonel Aldo Raine. His command per soldier is to get him 100 Nazi scalps. Because of the notoriety that the group had been claiming in the whole French and German people, Hitler becomes wary of their presence. During one drinking night, actress and spy Bridget von Hammersmark, film critic Archie Hilcox, and German killer Hugo Stiglitz, among others, encountered a German officer and had caused a Mexican stand-off.

The two story eventually meets when the movie “Nation’s Pride”, a German propaganda film, premiered in Shoshanna’s cinema house. Here, Shoshanna’s plan and the Basterds’ plan of revenge eventually come together, unexpectedly, causing an explosive climax for the film.

I would say that this film had just reached the height of epic filmmaking.

The direction is an overwhelming work of brilliance. From the first time the music plays with the opening credits, it already speaks in a very epic way. The way Tarantino manipulates the whole film is amazing because you just experience the whole thing. He grabs you and never lets you go, and to do that in its whole running time is just great.

Maybe I’m just singing praises, but I can’t explain it. It’s in the way Tarantino captures the life in this story is what I think is its biggest achievement. It is a big story to start, and it’s really hard to absorb, especially if the director doesn’t even try to give something for us to really care to, but the direction makes us involved in the movie. It’s larger than life, and the direction brings life to it.

I’d say it’s in how the director made decisions in the process. He could have done an other way in showing this scenes, but he restricts us to just go with this one, because even if you may view a scene from a different perspective if you are the director, it sorts of intimidates us in a good way because we know that we couldn’t have done that better. The movie possesses a lot of great scenes, but one doesn’t seem detached from the other one. And it’s because of the power of the direction that can do the pacing of the story.

So, I have just sung praises for the direction, which is undoubtedly great.

The screenplay is top-notch. Of course, it is a Tarantino movie, but the good thing about this screenplay is that it was able to apply his style without seeming to be out-of-place or disoriented. Nothing much to say here, as everyone already sang their praises for its screenplay. But just in three words, I could say that the screenplay was: witty, thrilling, smart.

Another thing with the screenplay is that it is not self-absorbed. Big movies like this tend to be isolating and inaccessible (say Romeo and Juliet) because such focuses on the scope it tries to cover than to really bring the audience to a story that we can relate to. Fortunately, Basterds didn’t do that. Instead, it had a personal story to tell us and it is insightful to what it tries to tell. It doesn’t just throw details to it and inserts WWII themes in it. It digs deeper in the relationship of Shosanna’s story to the Basterds’ story without making it really obvious.

It’s pointless to present two stories in a film without a relationship established between those. Only a great screenwriter like Tarantino could make the film equipped with stories that are weirdly related to each other without putting those to exploit. Each character that passes in the story is with something, none are empty. From the  small character of Monsieur LaPadite to the larger-than-life Hans Landa, they are all with substance. The screenplay utilizes all of those characters ingeniously that in the end, you will feel that the film would be very different if any of the cast would be changed.

The cinematography is very good, too. The cinematography was handled so well because it gave you a sense of having an another real world in the movie. It didn’t try to limit the possible vastness the film could reach. And it knows that the scope of the film is big. And each camera angle is in perfect rhythm in the movement of the film. In each shot, you know that there was intelligence devoted to it. It’s admirable, for it never lets go of the style since the film was already full of substance and to make this beautiful, we need the style. And the cinematography never lets the expectation be down.

The editing juices out the best the movie had already achieved. It makes the whole experience of being in the particular setting a thrilling one. As I have said a while ago, the movie is already full, and the editing is the only step next to greatness. Truth be told, the editing is the riskiest part of this movie, if we are talking about its importance in the making of it.

What we have here is a massively epic story that has tendency to go on and be loose. For me, it’s better to have a short and somewhat rushed movie than to have an overlong story that is as exciting as seeing a turkey being cooked in an oven even if you can actually compress it. Luckily, the intelligent editing it has made it all tight, and for  two and a half hours, it’s all full-packed greatness. Every minute in the film adds to its effect, not lessens it.

The sound is all-around terrific. You can’t get better sound from any other movies in 2009 other that this, with the exception of The Hurt Locker, Avatar, among a very few others. The sound brings a certain feeling of excitement because it blends with reality. Maybe it’s not really proper for me to talk about the sound since I am not a pro, but I can say that the two nominations deserve it.

The musical score is, well, exhilarating and inventive. Come on! Only Tarantino could have thought of such placing of music. It’s a movie that only fits to one kind of music, and the music in the film makes this film totally unique from other WWII movies. The film is a historical fantasy, and the music just gives that. There should be a Best Adapted Score again!

The costumes in the film serve this colossal film in a great way. Each piece seen in this film is impeccably designed. The red dress by Shosanna kills the competition for the year’s best costume piece. The production design is in a large scale and deservedly so. It gives us a world, not sets.

The film was an all-around intensely class exercise in the mastery of the technicality in filmmaking. It’s a remarkable film in terms of what it achieved in filmmaking. And, of course . . . . .

. . . . . who could forget the acting?

The film possessed the best ensemble of the year and had the best performance by an ensemble. The screenplay gave challenging characters with different challenges, and all of the actors were great.

Melanie Laurent is gives a great performance that could fit to the term “magical”. Brad Pitt is very different here, albeit giving a tremendously effective performance. Christoph Waltz is is charmingly and deliciously villainous as the sumptuously over-the-top Hans Landa. Diane Kruger shines as an actress/double spy. Michael Fassbender is intensely suave as Hilcox. Eli Roth is hilariously over-the top as Donowitz (notice that I already changed my opinion about his performance). Daniel Bruhl is perfectly fluffy as Zoller. Til Schweiger is suitably tough and rough as Stiglitz. The rest adds up to the film’s over-all impact.

Lastly, I should say this, but what makes this a delicious experience in movie watching, aside from the intelligently written thing is its violence. It made me turn away at times, but it made it go to a higher level. It’s Tarantino’s trademark, the violence, and here, it’s no different. I know a lot of people hated the violence, but I kinda liked it.

What else could I say?

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts, dear reader?

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5 thoughts on “Best Picture Profile: Inglourious Basterds

  1. I thought it was good as well, but not perfect. I like generally like Tarantino’s films but the dialogue usually gets a little self indulgent at times. This film is no different. Also the scenes where Shoshanna meets the Nazis at the two restaurants is way too long, and poorly paced. Still I still think it had a great scenes and over all was a good film.

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