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58. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Inglourious Basterds

May 29, 2018

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, Mélanie Laurent
Runtime: 153 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 2009

 

★★★★☆
 

From the introductory chapter title beginning with “Once upon a time…”, Inglorious Basterds establishes itself as Tarantino’s fantasy vision of the war - and it’s all fair game from that point on.

 

Even though the American squadron of the title might be perfect flagellation material for the subject, Tarantino instead crafts an intimate, multicultural tale of turmoil and vengeance in the face of the unmistakable enemies of the piece. It’s also the funniest film he’s ever written, most of which sprouting from the black comedy of the situation, but also from the misunderstandings of the characters cultural perceptions.

 

After the deplorably indulgent Death Proof, Inglorious is the closest Tarantino has come in years to recapturing the spark of ingenuity that led to Jackie Brown, his greatest work. His directorial achievements here are astonishingly mature; tension is wrung out of every situation in this cat-and-mouse game, and there are scenes here that rank amongst the finest of his career – including an introductory chapter that might be one of the most anxious sequences ever put on film.

 

The action of his WWII epic unfolds through the nuances of character interaction, its screenplay walking a phenomenal balancing act with multiple scenes and locations before revelling in the cathartic third act culmination of blood and bullets that he’s become known for in piercingly pleasurable fashion.

 

Pitt, Kruger, Laurent and Fassbender are all incredible talents in their leading roles, but it’s Waltz as SS Colonel Hans Landa who steals every frame as one of recent cinemas greatest villains. Its homage through genre-splicing adds a texture to the story and its world with seamless shifts in tone and reference through some beautifully cued sound design and anachronistic music choices.

 

This is his passionate love letter to cinema as an entity; a weapon of change for the better.

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