I was frogmarched into Inglourious Basterds expecting the worst. I’d enjoyed what I’d seen of the script, but that first trailer terrified me more than a wet shave from Mr Blonde listening to K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the ‘70s.
Quentin Tarantino had started shooting this thing in October ’08, and it showed. The footage looked cheap, rushed, shot on locations they’d stumbled upon in the woods.
I had been led into the Lumiere against my will. I haven’t loved a QT flick since Jackie Brown, and here I was, expected to sit through two hours and forty minutes of what appeared to be a hobby movie, featuring Eli Roth barking orders in a whiny voice at a bunch of TV actors?
Well, I was wrong to be cynical. Completely and totally.
Not only did I love every minute, if the French projectionist wanted to cue it up and roll it again from the start, I would have sat through the whole film again, with the biggest grin on my face.
This is Quentin’s best film since Jackie Brown. It might even be his best film since Pulp Fiction.
From the opening image of a French farmer chopping wood from a distance, you’re thrown face first into a war movie that looks and feels like a spaghetti western.
From there we’re led into a ten-minute sequence that’s the equal to anything Tarantino has shot, scripted and scored.
Hans Landa steps into the frame, grabs the film roughly by the arm and dominates it for the full duration.
Make no mistake, this is Landa’s film. He is the Blonde Jules of the movie; the stand-out character that will be on everyone’s lips when they’re walking out of the screen.
It would be a star-making performance if it wasn’t for the fact that Christoph Waltz is already a star in his native Austria. When he’s on form, Tarantino sure knows how to pluck an actor.
Which is why it’s such a shame that Eli Roth is a Basterd. He’s the only weak link I could spot, and I was searching for flaws like a projectionist examining a film reel.
Tellingly, his character’s big scene in the script has been cut from the finished flick. Why, we’ll never know, but let’s just say it’s a relief whenever he’s offscreen.
But that minor quibble can’t take away from a film that’s this incredible. It contains Tarantino dialogue at its best – the subtitle gags, and nods to the Cannes audience betray the film’s origins; surely this is the first film shot specifically for a film festival – but that’s not all.
QT’s magpie eye has never been sharper, swooping down on Italian cinema and plucking the very best shots, framing and music to create a deserving homage to the spaghetti westerns of my youth.
But Basterds is packed with images and moments that could only have come from Quentin’s manic mind. I can’t tell you about my favourite frames, for fear of ruining the conclusion, but look out for a red dress moment at one point, and some laughing smoke at another and you’ll see two reasons why I loved it so much.
Check our video review later for my score, but don’t expect a three.
Click here to see Jon's more reserved reaction to Inglourious Basterds