Inglourious_Basterds_posterAs much as I enjoyed Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds — and I enjoyed it a lot — when I was driving home from the preview in Stirling this evening, I wondered how much more I would’ve enjoyed it, had it been two movies.

Tarantino likes breaking up the linear narrative and bolting it back together into a more alluring package. Would Pulp Fiction have been so entertaining had it obeyed a natural chronological flow? Probably not. Part of the joy was seeing how stuff you already knew fell into place in the grander work. Anyway, in Inglourious, there are two very obvious threads that make up the story: there’s the Jewish cinema owner, played quite exquisitely by Mélanie Laurent (no, I haven’t heard of her either but I think her entire back catalogue is in her native French) and then there are the titular Basterds, led by a particularly square-jawed Brad Pitt (who I have heard of — I think he’s quite famous).

The first thread is a moving, psychological character study, which probably only covers a small handful of scenes that feel longer than they actual are simply because of the power of the mind games being played in them. Pivotal to this is the role of the SS’s star Jew Hunter and a performance by Christoph Waltz (no, I haven’t heard of him either but I think his entire back catalogue is in his native German) which, in my opinion, is so strong, it steals the movie until the threads converge and he gets his one on one time with Brad Pitt and then it was mneh, not so much.

The second thread is less strong in a cerebral way but no less tense and powerful. The Basterds are a team of American Jews who cut about war-torn France collecting scalps of Nazis. Literally. Historical accuracy, I should point out, takes a back seat and is eventually gagged during the denouement when it won’t stop muttering about how everything’s wrong. In this thread, Mike Myers of Austin Powers fame does absolutely nothing to convince us he has any depth in the roles he’s capable of playing, but is amusing nonetheless.

Both these threads could easily work alone in separate 90 minute movies that shared a common ending. So while Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2 were continuations of the same story, the Vols 1 & 2 here would be largely concurrent efforts, told from differing viewpoints. What Tarantino might have been able to add to these separate volumes might have made very interesting viewing … but who am I to question the great man? Especially as what he has given us is two-and-a-half hour work that is visceral enough in places to be described as a romp and as intimate and personal to be called a study.

The trademarked Tarantino dialogue that we all expect is there, tout force, and works here just as well as any of his other offerings. In Inglourious Basterds, though, I think the movie excels its stablemates because a huge percentage of this sparkling dialogue is delivered via subtitle. And yet it still works.

Special mention goes to Diane Kruger, who I remember from National Treasure (don’t ask), but here she has a couple of close-ups moments that I felt were mesmerising and pitched beautifully. Actually, as a whole, the acting talent is pretty much faultless and even QT’s continued habit of interfering with the occasional shot (Uma Thurman’s square in Pulp Fiction for example) is forgivable — here he has arrows pointing the high ranking Nazis and a couple of cartoony interludes.

There’s a slight theme of masterpiece that runs through the film so the obvious question to ask is, Is this Quentin Tarantino’s materpiece? For me, that accolade still belongs to Pulp Fiction but I felt on first viewing, this was a more satisfying experience than Reservoir Dogs or at least on a par. Controversial.

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