Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Quentin Tarantino's 7th full-length feature, unorthographically entitled Inglourious Basterds (on purpose, of course) opens with a wonderful, "leoneish" scene in which Tarantino demonstrates his fascination with and talent for lengthy, mood-setting, iconographic scenes which not only set the tone (and in this case, a vibratingly suspenseful tone) of the film, but also works as a perfect backdrop for the story which is about to unfold. In the said scene, where Austrian actor Christoph Waltz makes a dazzling introduction, Tarantino is back at his very best with his clever, at times outrageous dialogue, and subtle narrative style where the vast amount of detail eventually forms the structure of the story.
Inglourious Basterds continues in this manner for at least half of its running time, introducing us to protagonists and the film's many other essential characters in a playful, novel-like manner. And at the same time, Tarantino utilizes the opportunity to immerse himself in delicious compositions and his trademark poetic illustration of violence - which is alternately funny, beautiful and disgusting.
The story is always clever from a technical and narrative point of view, and Tarantino's skilful storytelling allows him to come up with unaccounted character developments and sometimes preposterous events - all of which augment the film as a comedy. The performers are also largely responsible for making Inglourious Basterds good fun: Brad Pitt through his postures and mimicry (even if his performance is disappointingly void of sentiment and depth), Christoph Waltz through his mischievous manner, and the many real-life impersonations through their sheer caricature (Goebbels, Hitler, Churchill).
Perhaps the most interesting thematic aspect of Tarantino's WWII fantasy, is how he deals with and makes language an important factor in the relation between the many different characters. It may seem that the German and the French understand and speak English a bit too well, but there is a lot of truth and relevance to the language barrier of the WWII, which Tarantino here gets a lot of fun out of. Mr. Waltz again is the one to excel, demonstrating a near perfect English, French and Italian in addition to his mothertongue German during the film.
For all the strengths and qualities of Inglourious Basterds, the film wanes as the ending approaches. The reason might seem like it shouldn't matter all that much, but it is an overriding shortcoming of Tarantino's film: Because in the end, this potentially great artwork boils down to common vengeance propaganda. On a moral and thematic level, Tarantino's alternate history lesson works as little more than a discharge of Jewish bitterness and a glorification of American righteousness. And as such, the finale of this otherwise remarkable film leaves us with a bitter and disappointing aftertaste.