When Quentin Tarantino announced years ago that he wanted to make a World War II movie, I envisioned a film full of aerial combat, with U.S. fighter pilots firing their machine guns as their scarves rippled in the wind. Instead, Tarantino gives us a wartime fantasy about how a young Jewish woman (Melanie Laurent) survives a Nazi assault on her family, led by a chipper officer (Christoph Waltz) who proudly calls himself “The Jew Hunter,” and rebuilds her life under a new identity while plotting her revenge. Tarantino thwarted my expectations, and probably yours as well, which is both an asset and a serious problem: the trailers and posters have most thinking that this is an ultra-violent action movie starring Brad Pitt, which is not the case at all.
The emphasis is on suspense, not action, as long, dialogue-heavy scenes lead to stunning, often explosive punch lines. Many sequences would make great stand-alone tales, making the movie feel like a series of thrilling short films strung together. Those who enjoy Tarantino’s trademark dialogue and quirky characters will enjoy this most.
This is pure cinematic insanity, Tarantino-style, a film madly in love with the movies, with references to Spaghetti Westerns, film noir, European cinema and classic film conventions sprinkled throughout. While it’s as historically accurate about WWII and Nazism as Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s such an intoxicating experience, even history buffs won’t mind.
Pitt’s performance as the leader of a group of Nazi hunters is enjoyable but overly cartoonish. He isn’t the lead, only one part of a large ensemble cast. Eli Roth (who directed the Hostel films) is cast as the most enthusiastic of Pitt’s crew. Roth isn’t much of an actor, but he plays his role with gusto, while Mike Myers is impressive—and nearly unrecognizable—in a one-scene turn. Diane Krueger and Til Schweiger get the best roles they’ve ever had, though Waltz (who won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival) and Laurent make the deepest, most haunting impressions.
I wish the film’s closing scene wasn’t so nasty and smug; it nearly kills the buzz of what comes before it. Yet if Pulp Fiction was Tarantino’s tribute to lovers of milk shakes, Blaxploitation and American pop culture, his latest is for fans of Schnapps, New Wave cinema, assassination thrillers and Hitchcock’s wartime seat grabbers. If you’re looking for a smart, funny, giant cheeseburger of a fantasy, you’ll walk away elated. This is one of Tarantino’s nuttiest films—and one of his best. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II