So with Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino delivers another flawed, enjoyable and morally skewed movie. It's a bit controversial. There are also plenty of allusions to other movies -- whether it's an obvious homage to Leone in the opening, or namedropping left and right as the plot eventually revolves around and climaxes in a cinema. But is it actually good?
The much-advertised violence is rather spare throughout film, awkwardly flicking back and forth between over-the-top and restrained; it may be no coincidence that the latter style is found in the two most successful scenes. The first chapter and a later bar scene work as build-ups to more cleverly-defined tensions between Nazis and those who conspire in against them (here, it is simply hiding Jews and plans of Hitler's assassination, respectively). Both scenes involve language (and even cultural) differences that ultimately result in massacres, and contain some of the best sequences Tarantino has ever filmed.
The rest of the movie is decidedly less consistent. Whenever Mélanie Laurent or Christoph Waltz is on-screen -- especially the latter, who will undoubtedly receive an Oscar nomination for his charismatic handling of a Nazi fluent in multiple languages -- the movie unquestionably works. Their one scene alone together unintentionally makes their superiority to the rest of the cast even more obvious. It is the Basterds themselves and their isolated moments that deflate the pacing; Brad Pitt's accent and generally flat position as the leader exists for some amusing lines, while Eli Roth is just... there, much like the other members.
But, at its heart, this is a revenge fantasy. The immorality of the Basterds with the head-scalping and bat-beating isn't going to win over people who already feel that they have enough justification to label Tarantino tasteless (as if that were a bad thing). With this theme there is a dangerous implication that one could take about the justification of war crimes, but this isn't on the crews' minds -- they just care about destroying the inadvertent glorification the Third Reich has been given by filmmakers. Historical accuracy isn't a concern here; Tarantino wants Hitler, Goebbels and all the Nazis to be blown apart and burn in the hell they deserve.
Inglourious Basterds is by no measure anything approaching a masterpiece -- despite what Pitt's last line alludes to -- but it succeeds in delivering a visceral satisfaction long overdue.
(There's also a trailer for Christopher Nolan's Inception before the film -- still criminally short and vague.)