Director: Quentin Tarantino Release Date: 19/08/09 Link: IMDB Undisputed king of trash cinema and as subtle as a hippo at a ballet class, ladies and gentlemen I give you Quentin Tarantino. A truly brave auteur in a playground of softly-softly writers and film-makers, QT has never been reserved in his madness. The kind of dazzling confidence and ‘FUCK YEAH!’ bravado that can make an audience’s collective jaw drop and think they’re seeing something awesomely groundbreaking when Uma Thurman draws the outline of a square in mid-air in Pulp Fiction is what makes Tarantino the film-maker we all want to be; a movie-nerd who has FUN from the moment he shouts ‘action’. An enthusiast who knows his conventions, his rules, his inspirations, and when to stick a middle finger up at all of that and swipe the rug out from underneath even his most devoted of followers. As with every almost other film in Tarantino’s canon thus far, Inglourious Basterds is an over-the-top homage to the forgotten pulp flicks of a bygone era; it bears those hallowed Tarantino trademarks of unflinching violence, dark comedy, and insane farce. The World War II setting is by-the-by; this is Tarantino’s spaghetti Western, a tale of revenge and a ‘bandits on a mission’ caper rolled into one bloody package. Tarantino plays up to this gleefully. He incorporates music cuts from Westerns scored by Ennio Morricone and Lalo Schifrin. He divides the film into chapters bearing titles like ‘Once Upon A Time In Nazi-Occupied France’. He frames Mélanie Laurent - his new muse, if his camera-based devotion to her is anything to go by - as the vengeful loner Shosanna Dreyfus, out to gain justice for her family, slain at the hands of an SS squad led by Standartenführer Hans Landa in the movie’s blistering opening. The twenty-minute sequence is one of the best scenes you’ll see all year; a master-class in tension and character-building. And that tense character being built is Landa, aka The Jew Hunter, played to unnerving perfection by Christoph Waltz. From the second he strides onscreen with a regal charm, he doesn’t so much steal the film as he does conduct an all-guns-blazing heist in which he makes off with the film, the cast, the crew, the projector, the cinema, the bloke sitting at the end of your row, and you, dear reader. The dangerously affable Nazi holds this opening scene - the interrogation of a dairy farmer suspected to be hiding Jews - in the palm of his hand, letting it drift unnervingly between informal chatter and threatening intensity with nothing more than a smoke of his pipe or a sip of milk. Tarantino’s already boasted that Landa is the best character he’s ever written. The star-making performance from Waltz agrees with him. And the other members of Tarantino’s misfit cast don’t disappoint. Brad Pitt has spent the past decade having the time of his life as an actor; his role as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, swarthy Southern leader of the Basterds, is a fitting tribute to those over-earnest and unsung heroes of jingoistic b-movies, a character both comical and dangerous, whose claim to be well-versed in Italian extends to a drawled ‘bon-jorr-no’ in one of the simultaneously hilarious and frightening moments in the narrative. He’s brilliant here, and it’s a shame he’s probably going to take his place in movie history as Brad Pitt the Moviestar; Brad Pitt: one half of Brangelina; Brad Pitt: People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2000, and not as Brad Pitt: two-time Oscar-nominee, that bloke who was actually bloody brilliant in Se7en and Fight Club. Eli Roth, better known for his schlock torture porn, is surprisingly enjoyable to watch as the twitchy Basterd nicknamed ‘The Bear Jew’. Other members of the allies are particularly effective, even with their sparse screen-time. Michael Fassbender and Til Schweiger, as a dashing English lieutenant and a psychopathic former-Nazi, now-Basterd, respectively, prove to be standouts. In the archetypal Uma Thurman role is the aforementioned Mélanie Laurent, a vision of French cool and exploitation flick badassery; this is as much her breakout film as it is Waltz’s. Even a few of Tarantino’s old cohorts tag along for the ride; no spoilers, but listen out for two voices of Tarantino movie past. The banter amongst the ensemble cast is what marks a Tarantino film out as a bit special. It’s the remarkably accomplished dialogue that holds the extremely long - and man, are they LONG - scenes together with as much tension by the end as there was at the beginning. The meeting between German actress/spy Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger, much better as an actress when she’s not just playing ‘the girl’) and other assorted allies and Basterds in a French bar could be a film in its own right. These scenes follow the conventions of Movie Plotting 101 as far as Tarantino wants to string his audience along for, until…KAPOW. There are so many moments of demented insanity peppered amongst the obviously dark setting that it’s exhausting to watch. Swastikas are carved into foreheads, one Basterd gets his own onscreen title card and narrator for his back-story, and David Bowie’s achingly 80s Cat People (Putting Out Fire) blares across the soundtrack while Shosanna puts her revenge plot into motion. If you can last the ride, then you’ll be rewarded with an ending of OTT, macabre madness; a brave and/or ridiculous - delete as you see fit - set of scenes that probably had Tarantino jumping up and down like a crazed terrier, yapping in excitement and glee. The frankly nightmarish vision of a face cackling maniacally in the midst of fire and smoke is an image of iconographic cinema, haunting the mind long after the mayhem has ended, along with the only logical question to be left with: did Tarantino really put that film in chronological order? Rating: 9/10