Pulp Fiction is a groundbreaking film by any standard and is one of Quentin Tarantino’s best films. His latest, “Inglorious Basterds” is presented in much the same style as Pulp Fiction with the action being told in a series of vignettes that somehow tie it together in the end.
Although his work is uneven at times, Tarantino films usually hold the audiences interest if only to see how the peculiarities in each vignette somehow manage to weave together. This movie was billed and reviewed as a “shoot-em-up” war movie. There is a great deal of gore and one “chapter” devoted to the Basterds, but this is not a war movie. This is a Quentin Tarantino movie and those who come with an expectation of an old-style kind of war movie will be disappointed.
Most modern war movies make an anti-war statement or tell a story from a personal level of drama. This film makes a statement and a joke beginning with the fact that Nazi’s are always a parody of themselves and takes it from there.
The smaller intimate scenes in Tarantino films are my favorites. One of his best occurs in “True Romance” between two great actors: Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. Walken is a Sicilian Mafioso type and Dennis Hopper is the father of Christian Slater who is being grilled by Walken for information about his son. The action and the conversation turns into something altogether different when the audience realizes that Hopper has just deliberately slurred Walken’s Sicilian background because he knows he is going to die and Walken starts smiling in a totally evil way that suggests he knows it too. It is an extraordinary deft scene for a director that sometimes manages to go totally over the top.
It is the small, intimate details in his movies that are the best ones. “Inglorious Basterds” is no exception. From the beginning, we see the tension built in a scene at a French farmhouse where the Nazi “Jew Hunter” talks with a farmer he suspects of harboring Jews. One of the best vignettes occurs late in the film with members of the team of “Bastards” who get caught in a verbal cat-and mouse game in a bar with a suspicious SS officer. The audience knows that the tension is building and will explode at some point, but the verbal twists and turns sometimes lead in unexpected directions.
If you liked Pulp Fiction, you will like this movie. On the other hand, if you want to see a good action adventure war movie, I would recommend renting “Kelly’s Heroes, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan, The Great Escape or The Dirty Dozen.” This movie is one part war adventure, two parts fantasy and pure Tarantino at his best. That sometimes makes for great cinema.