There no denying that the concept behind Inglourious Basterds is an interesting one: it’s a film set during World War II, but in a kind of alternate reality, where Quentin Tarantino is god, and Adolf Hitler was blown up in a cinema. If you can excuse the blatant historical inaccuracies, then the idea of a Pulp Fiction with Nazis doesn’t sound too unappealing.
However, whereas Pulp Fiction‘s list of screw-ups and thugs were all largely memorable – including the brief but brilliant appearance of Amanda Plummer – the many of the characters in Inglourious Basterds are either forgettable or miscast. Predictably, the decision to cast Eli Roth as the Bear Jew doesn’t pay off, and even though it’s a fairly small role, it’s still fairly embarrassing. What’s more surprising is how bad Brad Pitt is as Aldo Raine, the US soldier in charge of a group of Jewish combatants known as the Inglourious Basterds. Throughout the entire film, he pulls a strange face, as if he’s straining to break wind, and talks like he’s just bitten his tongue. It’s not entirely clear whether he’s supposed to be funny or not, but his time on the screen is largely distracting.
With such a poor showing from the American contingent, it’s left to the German and French members of the cast to pick up the slack. Wisely, Tarantino allows them to perform in their native languages, and the performances from the European cast members are largely very strong. Melanie Laurent is great as Shosanna Dreyfus, a Jew forced to hide her heritage from the Nazis, and Sylvester Groth as Goebbels also stands out. However, the only character that you’re likely to really remember after watching Inglourious Basterds is Col. Hans Lando, the highly educated, tenacious, and totally batty Nazi, known as the Jew Hunter. Played with aplomb by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, Lando provides pretty much all the best moments in the movie, going from hilarious to creepy to downright shit scary, seemingly at the flick of a switch.
If it wasn’t for Waltz, Inglourious Basterds would be fairly disappointing, because apart from a few scenes, including one in which a British soldier’s fake German accent is sussed by a suspicious Nazi officer, most of the film you’ll probably be waiting for Lando’s next appearance. The eponymous crew of Nazi hunters are actually hardly in the film, and are something of a wasted opportunity. Even though the movie is already two and a half hours long, another 30 minutes might have been welcome in exchange for more of the Inglourious Basterds doing awesome things, but with Eli Roth behind the camera, making tea or something.
As it is, Inglourious Basterds is a decent movie, with one outstanding performance, several good but forgettable ones, and a couple of quite bad ones, and a plot that’s totally ridiculous but quite cool. It’s possibly a bit long to watch on your iPod if you’re commuting, unless you intend to watch it bit by bit, but for longer journeys, it wouldn’t be a bad way to pass the time.
Unfortunately, like many subtitled films, its transfer to a mobile format is not without its problems. As with some of the other films we’ve reviewed for the iPod, the aspect ratio of the player means you’ll either have to watch with subtitles so small you’ll end up with eye strain, or you can zoom in and miss words that don’t fit on the screen. If the iPod could handle separate subtitle files, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but with the movies you download from iTunes, they seem to be hard-coded.
Thanks to this rather significant flaw, it’s wholly unsuitable for the iPod or iPhone. You’d think such an obvious problem would have been fixed for a film that is largely subtitled. If you intend to watch it through iTunes, then that’s not a problem, and you also get extras, including extended scenes and DVD-style menus. Of course, you could just buy the DVD or Blu-ray disc – it’s better quality, and it’s about the same price.
While the inclusion of extras makes it one of the better iTunes downloads, it’s disappointing that you can’t really watch it on the move. Currently, it costs £10.99 to buy, but from 6th January, you’ll be able to rent it. Unfortunately, the rental version won’t include the extras, which again makes the DVD version even more attractive. At least if you rent that you won’t be getting a cut-down version.
Inglourious Basterds is available from the iTunes store.