Inglourious Basterds

When I met Brad Pitt in 1995, other than he was an actor I had little idea of what he actually did or what his achievements had been. I think the only film of his I had watched up until then was Thelma and Louise but didn’t realise it was he who had played the part of the teenage seducer-cum-purse thief, J.D. Others in West Belfast were not so ignorant of Pitt fame. When I told a few friends that he would be in Ballymurphy the following morning they jumped at the chance to meet him, obtain autographs and have their photo taken alongside him.

On a crisp December morning in our Ballymurphy living room Pitt sat on the carpeted floor. While probably pressed for time he nevertheless gave an hour of it up to chat with the small gathering of admirers who had called, signed the posters they brought along with them and happily posed for photographs. Unassuming in demeanour, his visit brought patience and charm. He impressed his fans with his courtesy and easy manner.

Since then, probably because of it, I have watched quite a few of his films including the magnificent ‘Seven’. Last evening, with the kids hustled up the stairs, I sat down alongside my wife, glass of whiskey in hand to watch Inglourious Basterds. The combination of Pitt and Tarantino enhanced the potential for a viewing feast.

Set in France the plot sits on a group of American military Jews working deep behind Nazi lines to create havoc and panic within German ranks. Scalping, torturing, battering victims to death with baseball bats – all of it considered a fate Nazi soldiers deserved. My interest in World War 2 history has always drawn me to films like that. The strategic idea of operating well behind the enemy front however had more to it than the film which unfortunately promised more than it delivered.

There were brilliant individual performances, most notably that of Melanie Laurent in the role of Jewish cinema proprietor Shosanna Dreyfus, who acts much better than she dances. Her red carpet pirouetting with Inglorious Basterds director Quentin Tarantino at the Cannes Film Festival will never allow her to cruise at the same altitude as Darcey Bussell but it was at least less insipid than much of Inglourious Basterds. Christoph Waltz played SS colonel Hans Landa brilliantly but the writing undermined the performance towards the close of the movie when the fearsome Landa began to appear more like the clownish American Nazi from the Blues Brothers. There may not be unanimity on Pitt’s performance as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, but to me it was superb.

With such fine acting performances sitting there inviting someone to join the dots it is unfortunate that no one rose to the challenge. Consequently, the integrity of Inglourious Basterds was considerably weaker than it could have been.

A Guardian reviewer expressed disappointment at ‘how exasperatingly awful and transcendentally disappointing it is: a colossal, complacent, long-winded dud, a gigantic two-and-a-half-hour anti-climax.’ Sadly, having spent a late evening watching it, that is a verdict I have to concur with.

While not without its explosive moments there was more ennui than excitement. The prolonged incident in the cellar had none of the potency of the restaurant debate in Tarantino’s brilliant Reservoir Dogs. Suffocating a potentially explosive film with tedium, producing frustration of equal quantity in the audience is something Tarantino should address before his next venture. It is not as if the interest of the audience cannot be held by sustained sit downs if the writing is potent enough. The outstanding Conspiracy featuring Stanley Tucci and Kenneth Branagh underscores the point. Inglourious Basterds failed to come within touching distance of that.

The film opened up with suspense and tension when Landa of the SS and French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite faced each other across a farmhouse table. The Frenchman’s resolve soon wilted to fear followed by despair under the remorselessly intense probing of his methodical SS adversary. The atmosphere thickened the air; a great show in the making. It never happened; the opening shots were never to be repeated. Tarantino allowed too much drift and the real story was lost in cellars amidst cigarette smoke and wine.

As the plot unfolded the sheer fantasy of the production made it even more disappointing. Yes, it is what many Jews might have, with every good reason, longed for in their escapist moments. Yet, even they must have felt, it all ended up being more like the Boondock Saints than a serious war movie.

War movies, I prefer them to be realistic. Fantasy – 30 Days of Night is for that; good fantasy too.


  1. Your review sums up why I (and my wife) have delayed seeing it despite my older son's raves; we never find ourselves in the mood for its odd mix. Pulp Fiction's one sort of jarring cartoon world we can handle, but mixing real pain with revenge fantasy still makes us unsettled.

  2. Fionnchu

    A very unfulfilling movie. A serious letdown. The cartoonish aspect is very grating

  3. They could make a film about Sinn Fein, maybe the title could be "Un scrupulous Bastards"

  4. coooheeee Nuala tis me I,ve been locked up in Sevastabile St where the living dead spend their days chanting G.A good A.M bad after 2 weeks of that shit I escaped across the drnk to the highlands where I had adrink or more, one film you may have missed starring Gerry and Marty is the follow up to the lion king called the lying bastards, another thing I have learned is why Irishmen prefer guns to women .......(ducks) can buy a silencer for a gun heh heh its good to be home

  5. Marty, Albert Allen has your name slandered, accusations have ranged from turncoat to under the patio. I knew you would not desert me or your public, Mackers will be delighted with your return.

  6. Marty, so glad you survived your ordeal, a lesser man would have crossed over to the dark side. Albert Allen slandered your name in your absence, saying you were either under the patio or working for Sinn Fein. I knew you would never desert me or your public on the blog, no doubt Mackers is delighted at your safe return, let the debriefing begin!

  7. It was a crock o shit of a movie for sure. I couldnt be bothered watching it through to the end. ahahaha re fionnuala & marty comments Eraserhead remake with sf as the baby and Gerry at the helm playing God. Marty you know why Irishwomen prefer guns to men. They deliver :-)