Well, we got our hands on the dog tags at 8 a.m. and had the whole day to build up our massive expectations. The Inglourious Basterds crew was cool enough to give out posters to those who didn’t get tickets. After a day of geek-heaven, including run-ins with Joss Whedon, Dave Gibbons, Bryan Lynch, and Juliet Landau, we arrived at the theater around 7 p.m., determined to get good seats, and were inside by 8 p.m.. The theater staff was very serious about keeping all recording devices out of the screening and even warned that they’d be “big brothering” us with night vision during the film. This all seemed pretty standard for a screening of this caliber, and the theater staff won me over when I noticed they’d hung the G.I. JOE poster backwards just outside the theater. I can only assume they were as disgruntled as I was.
Kudos, popcorn sweepers!
When we entered the theater, there was clearly a buzz throughout the audience. This was the exact audience with which one would want to see a film like this. They all seemed to be hard-core Tarantino fans that were thirsty for Nazi blood! (Did I mention some of them camped out over night for tickets?) There was a small commotion when Dominic Monaghan of Lost and Lord of the Rings took a seat. There was one last warning about cameras and then, *gasp*, Eli Roth was introduced to a decent amount of applause.
I stop here to explain my feelings on Eli Roth. I have been a Roth fan on and off for quite some time. I know it sounds like we used to go steady or something, but that was just in high school. What I mean is, when I first saw trailers for Hostel with the whole “Tarantino presents” thing, I was sold. “Torture-porn” hadn’t really emerged as a genre at that point, and the idea of being kidnapped, sold, and tortured in a foreign country seemed original, fresh, and terrifying! Torture was always something that seriously disturbed me, so it really seemed like a hell ride to me! When I saw the film, I lost a lot of faith in Mr. Roth. Seeing the cheesiness of the violence really took me out of the film. It had a few good moments, but, for the most part, I was done with Roth.
A year or two later, we had our next encounter when I slipped into a screening of Grindhouse. I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed Roth’s quick cameo in Death Proof and his '70s-slasher tribute trailer, Thanksgiving. I don’t think anyone missed the scene where a plucky, young cheerleader jumping on a trampoline lands spread eagle on the killer’s knife! I might add that, unlike Roth’s typical style, he cuts away from the “money shot” here, instead choosing to focus on the girl’s surprised expression. I wish Roth did this more often, because he does it well. Hostel is really quite tense up until the first full on shot of someone slicing and dicing.
The point is that Grindhouse made me give Roth another chance. Soon after, I went through a period of watching various B-movie and horror documentaries in which Roth provided commentary. Again, I was impressed to hear how knowledgeable he was with regards to the genre. He spoke with the passion of a fanboy and was able to back it up with his horror-geek knowledge. By the way, check out Who Can Kill A Child on DVD, if you want a taste of one of the many great film recommendations this guy has made! I realized then, maybe Roth’s films were not my thing. Every one has their tastes, but there’s no denying that I’m a huge fan of Eli Roth, himself. I can see why Tarantino keeps this guy around.
Back to the theater, Roth did his job by introducing the film and getting the audience riled up. Apparently, Pitt and Tarantino were in Europe promoting the film but sent their love! (Ahhhh... those sweeties....) He also instructed us to go out and promote the film by word of mouth. So, if you’re reading this, you have fallen into the Inglourious Basterds marketing web!
HA, Ha, ha!!!
Last point: the whole FBC crew commented on the fact that Roth has unusually large biceps. Aside for being really weird, this serves as our sign for “stop reading here unless you have no fear of SPOILERS”!!! Listen to the biceps!!!
The film opens with a scene, which will now be a Tarantino classic, and reeks of intensity. The rest of the film continues at this pace for pretty much the rest of the picture, with certain Tarantino staples like dividing the film into titled chapters and the weaving of multiple story lines with a beautiful collision. The plot of Inglourious Basterds is a simple one (only slightly resembling the plot of the 1978 The Inglorious Bastards): a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds” travel through Nazi-occupied France during WWII, killing and mutilating Nazis in order to instill fear in the Third Reich. While the story may seem simple, Tarantino succeeds where he always does: his characters and their delicious dialogue.
Christopher Waltz as Col. Hans Landa of the S.S. takes an almost perverse pleasure in the tension he brings to every scene. He captivates the audience and leaves you both longing for and fearing his appearance. Both the actor and the character seem to savor every word spoken. Mike Meyers, Til Schweiger, and Michael Fassbender (BTW, Fassbender is the “then we will fight in the shade” guy from 300!!!) turn in solid performances and are trademark Tarantino characters; they clearly have an interesting and rich history that we are left to imagine - much like Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs or Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. Brad Pitt is great, as always, and manages to balance the comical nature of Lt. Aldo Raine with a naturalistic charm. While the John Wayne-ness of his expressions may bother others, it hit perfectly for me. Not many of “The Basterds” have much screen time beyond Eli Roth, B.J. Novak, and Omar Doom, but they all do a suitable job. Oh, and our buddy, Mr. Roth, apparently has those huge biceps, because he beats Nazis’ heads in with a baseball bat!
Diane Kruger and Melanie Laurent both bring a strong female presence to the film with their solid acting jobs and allow for Tarantino’s camera to linger on their feet, as always.
Kudos for foot fetishists!!!
Aside from the great performances, this is a film that I imagine others will either love or hate, and much of that will depend on the audience’s ability to let go and just have fun. In some ways, this almost feels like a follow-up or sequel to Grindhouse in the sense that it has some clear, B-movie traits. Don’t believe me? Wait ‘till “The Basterds” come face to face with Hitler himself! Let’s just say that the scene delivers, but historical accuracy goes out the window! And, honestly, I didn’t care at that point; I was having way too much fun! Maybe in the deeper context of the actual war, this is some what tasteless, but this film revels in its anti-Nazi bravado, and it’s hard not to get caught up as the butchers get butchered! It’s almost like one of those old, John Wayne war films where the harsh reality of the war is forgotten in favor of cheering on the American boys as they deliver the much needed “boot in the ass!”
If there’s anything negative to say about this film, it’s that I wanted more of “The Basterds!” We spent a lot of time with Pitt, Roth, and Doom, but many of “The Basterds” were only in a couple of scenes with minimal dialogue. While we see a few Nazi scalps and swastikas carved in foreheads, I hungered to see what other brutal tactics these fellas were using to scare the piss out of Hitler’s boys! Although, there’s a hell of an ending to make up for it!
In general, it seemed like most of the audience dug the film. We caught a quick glance of Elijah Wood making a dash for the exit, but then he got caught in the massive exit line. We soon realized that the line was so thick, because Roth was standing outside signing posters for the audience. Unfortunately, the FBC crew got there just as they ran out, but we stuck around and chatted with Roth for a bit about the film. He mentioned that Tarantino is already working on a prequel for Inglourious Basterds with more of the story regarding Pitt’s Aldo Raine character. Maybe they’ll fill us in on how he got that cool-ass scar that all the chicks dig!
So, there’s the scoop! I’d say anyone who digs Tarantino films will dig this one! Go in ready to have fun and start saving up your Nazi hate. You’ll need a good bit of that!