Inglourious Basterds ★★★★★

"There's a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch. Seeing as how I may be rapping on the door momentarily...I must say; damn good stuff, sir." - Lt. Archie Hicox

What marks Inglourious Basterds as the vast improvement that it is from the two film-long low-point of Tarantino's career in the form of Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Death Proof is its maturity. And with maturity comes wisdom. And with wisdom comes sense. And with sense comes an acute sense of finding out what your audience craves: satisfaction. So, Tarantino homes into our primal instincts, and proceeds to do what he does best: kill things we don't like. And what don't we like?

NAZIS.

Catharsis comes in the form of build-up and release at a near-constant rate. Take the opener: a superb 17 minutes of unbearable tension, finished off with 3 minutes of sickening release, followed by a comic chapter of satisfying violence and off-beat comedy moments (the title card of HUGO STIGLITZ is a delight). Tarantino's intense blending of genres is at its peak here, with the war epic, black comedy farce and love-letter to cinema fitting like a glove on Tarantino's own terms.

And what (in)glorious terms. He sets out to do homage to cinema itself, and what better place to set it than in the period and place where cinema was at its most restricted? The propaganda film (directed by Eli Roth), Nation's Pride, is a sly wink to the audience concerning Tarantino's own self-awareness; it is told that Frederick Zoller killed 200 soldiers from his bird's nest, and the film makes that point evident by repeatedly showing every single bullet hitting its target. Although it's played very much like a version of Battleship Potemkin with sound, it's Tarantino subtly telling the audience that "Yes, you can still have your mindless killing from me, but hell, I'm gonna give you something else as equally delicious!"

And that other delicious meal is the tasty dialogue. Transporting himself into a different time to the modern-day jive-talk that he's used to, the script of Basterds is a striking joy from start to finish. Letting his scenes run and run and run as long as they want to, it's a consistent masterclass in set-piece dialogue. I've already sung the opening's praises, but the lengthy 'La Louisiane' sequence is another marvel of rambling dialogue spoken by colourful characters that provides the squirming tension that we want and the splatter-violence that we can't help but love.

The vibrant characters are what cement Basterds' pleasures. Essentially a film made up of entirely supporting characters (the top-billing of Brad Pitt only stands because he's the big star; not the main character), everyone gets a moment to shine. While Christoph Waltz undeniably steals the show as the wonderfully verbose villain, Hans Landa, repeated viewings lend themselves to the 'Guest Stars' of the opening credits. August Diehl is pitch-perfect as the cold, calculating Nazi officer, Dieter Hellstrom, while Eli Roth's unconventional casting is nothing less than hilarious. But for all the Tarantinoesque banter and entertainment, the film also has a beating heart in the form of Melanie Laurent's remarkable performance as the scorned Shosanna Dreyfus. Observe her little tic when Landa orders milk for her at the restaurant: it's just perfection.

The entertainment factor of Inglourious Basterds can't really be rationally measured. Packing in action, comedy, superb acting, classic writing and dangerously-high re-watchability factor into 153 minutes (that could be longer), it's Tarantino venturing somewhere completely new while also giving you back what you thought he'd been missing.

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