The latest from writer/director Quentin Tarantino is "Inglorious Basterds", a long-in-development project that had been discussed by Tarantino for quite some time. Once again, the director's long gaps between projects seem to pay off, as "Basterds" is - once again - a love letter from Tarantino to everything he adores about classic cinema. The movie is epic insanity, but ambition and lunacy are a mixture that continue to make Tarantino's films so bold and fascinating: he may push the envelope to extremes, but he does so in a way that manages to be masterful, confident and remarkably focused.
The film is presented within 5 chapters, and starts off with a scene that has dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) working in the fields in France when he's approached by a band of Nazi soldiers, lead by Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). LaPadite sits down with Landa for a discussion that eventually leads to what Landa is searching for - he believes that the farmer is hiding Jewish people within the house. As the scene plays out, the level of tension that Tarantino builds is astonishing, eventually leading towards a surprising escape.
The next chapter starts the main story, as we are introduced to Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), the leader of a band of soldiers whose mission it is to drop into France and wipe out as many Nazi soldiers as possible and do so in a way that will strike fear into the hearts of the Nazi army - they even leave a mark in one soldier that will forever brand him as a Nazi. Soon enough, word spreads throughout the ranks of the German army about the "Basterds".
Meanwhile, the young woman, Emmanuelle Mimieux (Mélanie Laurent) - who escaped early on in the film -has reappeared, and has set her sights on getting revenge on Landa. She now runs a movie theater in Paris and when a German actor arranges to hold a premiere for his new movie (which will be attended by Hitler and Goebbels) she senses an opportunity for vengeance. Meanwhile, a German actress (Diane Kruger) has plans of her own and soon crosses paths with Raine's men.
The performances are impressive, especially Pitt, who offers a terrific, old-fashioned star performance in the lead. Waltz (who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival) is remarkable as the ruthless German officer and both Laurent and Diane Kruger offer fine supporting efforts. Samuel L. Jackson also offers a fantastic performance as the film's narrator. Tarantino's dialogue is also a character in itself, and it once again crackles throughout - Tarantino has been working on the film for years, and the result is a script deserving of awards notice.
While the picture is made to seem like an action-comedy in the trailers, it's something different; while there are some hints of lightness amidst the otherwise dark subject matter (and quite a bit of action), there's a tension and unease during even the lighter scenes of this film that I found haunting - the film certainly has a powerful feeling of dread, even during the most subtle of moments. As a result, the film feels surprisingly quick and urgent, even with a 152 minute running time. Technically, the film is mesmerizing, with hits of wild style, gorgeous cinematography (from Robert Richardson) and inspired music choices.
Overall, Tarantino may make fans wait, but once again, he proves he's still one of the most exciting filmmakers working today.
DVD Premiere Footage:
VIDEO: "Inglorious Basterds" looks stellar on Blu-Ray, and is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). While a few moments appear softer - although quite possibly by intent - the majority of the film looked smooth as butter and quite detailed.
A couple of light instances of edge enhancement were seen, but the picture did not show any print flaws, nor any noise or other concerns. Colors looked pure and bold, appearing well-saturated and never smeary.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 audio presentation isn't a consistent assault, but the most intense sequences are powerful and aggressive, with the surrounds delivering gunfire, ambience and other details. The soundtrack provides a very nice sense of space, as well as plenty of power during a number of sequences. Audio quality seemed splendid, with clear, crisp dialogue and effects.
EXTRAS: A roundtable (although more just sitting across from one another) discussion between Pitt, Tarantino and film critic Elvis Mitchell is offered, and runs about 30 minutes. While the discussion is a little praise-heavy at the open, once the three get going further into the discussion, we start to learn more about the approach to the history, crafting performances and the inspiration behind certain scenes. Tarantino and Pitt are very funny together and bounce ideas off one another superbly. There are some minor patches of praise and small talk, but this is otherwise a very nice piece.
We also get the full "Nation's Pride" film-within-a-film (and a "making of" for it) and "Killin' Nazis" trivia game, "Hi Sallys" (Tarantino's greetings to his editor from on-set), "Camera Angel" (clipboard cracks), trailers, 3 alternate scenes, a featurette about the original "Inglorious", a pair of short interviews with actor Rod Taylor and two poster galleries.
A digital copy is also offered on an extra disc.
Final Thoughts: Overall, Tarantino may make fans wait, but once again, he proves he's still one of the most exciting filmmakers working today with "Inglorious Basterds", one of the year's best films. The Blu-Ray edition boasts very nice audio/video quality, along with an assortment of minor extras. Recommended.
The Film A