Critics review Tarantino's 'Inlgourious Basterds'
Posted May 20, 2009 2:35 PM By Katie Hasty @TheKatieHasty
Reactions are in from the premiere of Quentin Tarantino's long-brewing flick "Inglourious Basterds" at Cannes, with most critics expressing disappointment in what many hoped would be the director's magnum opus.
The film, described by movie writers as a first in the "spaghetti war" genre, stars Brad Pitt as leading Basterd, Lieutenant Aldo Raine, and Christoph Waltz as evil SS officer Landa. The film is set between France and Germany, with languages from those countries, plus English, spoken throughout with subtitles.
Most reviews refer to the movie's final line, "This might be my masterpiece," which could easily be interpreted as Tarantino's own self-congratulation; however, according to several early reviews, "Inglourious Basterds" misses this high mark due to its heavy dialogue, expectation of more war sequences, Pitt's caricatured character and disagreement on pace. Positives include rave response to Waltz, Tarantino's mix of history and fiction and the director's typical inclusion of wit and humor in even the most gruesome scenes.
Below is a summary of many outlets' reviews from the screening. Check out our photo gallery from the premiere, with shots of Tarantino, Pitt and beyond, for more "Inglorious" coverage.
The Hollywood Reporter:
"'Inglourious Basterds'â€¨ merely continues the string of disappointments in this year's Competition... for a war movie there is very little action... Tarantino never finds a way to introduce his vivid sense of pulp fiction within the context of a war movie."
"[T]he full catastrophe of his new film arrived like some colossal armour-plated turkey from hell... It isn't funny; it isn't exciting; it isn't a realistic war movie, yet neither is it an entertaining genre spoof or a clever counterfactual wartime yarn. It isn't emotionally involving or deliciously ironic or a brilliant tissue of trash-pop references."
Sharon Waxman of The Wrap:
"[I]t was hard to miss Tarantino's skilled embrace of the elements that make theatrical moviegoing just plain great: scenes filled with dramatic tension, performances with depth and humor, rich and witty scoring choices, multi-lingual dialogue that Tarantino still stamps as his own, and knowing nods at cinematic history and the power of the medium he loves so well... As Brad Pitt says in the very last frame of the film, looking straight into the camera after a gruesome, signature task: 'This might be my masterpiece.'"
"[The flim] feels like a bubblegum sidedish to the heavy dinner plate of [Tarantino's] career... To watch 'Basterds' without considering Tarantino's implementation of enyclopedic movie knowledge makes it into a breezy, insignificant experience... dialogue scenes go on and on, people gets shot, lavish music cues make way for interstitial moments of contemplation, and so on. Get around to it, already."
"[O]nly fully finds its tonal footing about halfway through, after which it's off to the race. By turns surprising, nutty, windy, audacious and a bit caught up in its own cleverness, the picture is a completely distinctive piece of American pop art with a strong Euro flavor that's new for the director... pic features terrific production values across the boards."
"'Inglourious Basterds' clocks in at nearly three hours, and its director could certainly have trimmed more of its flab. This, and Pitt's character not getting the screen time he deserves, are the main disappointments... [Tarantino] is royalty at this festival - and as long as you can suspend disbelief and offence, he remains the king of trashy cinema."
"The problem is that there's not enough roaring or headhunting... There is far too much yakking, some of it thickly accented and hard to follow, most of it without the rhythmic zing of his best work... It's not so much inglorious as undistinguished."
"It's as talky as the talkiest films in the competition, but Tarantino composes great comedic dialogue that lasts the entire film... Tarantino never cuts totally loose... [Tarantino's] working with a large canvas here, and I think the scope of a war film doesn't entirely jibe with the kind of intimate violence he's so good at staging but never bothers with here... Even at 160 minutes, the film feels rushed."
"Vintage Tarantino to be sure, but a little more action would have been glorious... Not enough scalps."