Quentin Tarantino's most recent outing is, well, Tarantino. He was both writer and director for this one and it is entirely referential of something else, but never anything original. Some think this makes him genius. Most find this to be proof that he is actually incapable of entirely creative thought and devoid of the ability to bring anything new to cinema. And, as if that weren't bad enough, he is now selling his film as something other than what it is. Anyone who saw a trailer, clip or poster would think this film was going to be a bloodbath of vigilante Nazi killings, complete with gore and sound effects to make an audience squirm (think Grindhouse and the jar of eyeballs). Instead, there is very little Nazi scalping to be found. The film is more of a spy drama, with two plots set to converge at a small movie house.
We are introduced to Brad Pitt's crew of cutthroats, but then the plot veers away and follows a young woman (who narrowly escaped the clutches of the Holocaust) who now runs a theatre in Paris. When the Germans hire the hall to show their latest propaganda film, Melanie Laurent sets about to bring down the Third Reich. Sadly, although her character looks the part, she has little passion to back it up. Her acting does not carry the coldness well. Cold should not come across as bored.
Simultaneously, Pitt's men go undercover to make contract with an Ufa actress turned British spy in a ratskeller. Unfortunately, this scene, like most scenes, drags on interminably. It seems like it was supposed to heighten tension, but it was ineffectual. And Diane Kruger, accomplished though she is, could not carry the scene either. It was simply too long and too dry for anyone to save.
Brad Pitt is a caricature of a staunch American that thinks the bad guys get what they deserve. He has no qualms and no reserve. The annoying part is his accent and carriage. It doesn't fit. He looks awkward and stilted -- much like John Wayne in an old Western. Unless Tarantino was referencing that too.
The best thing about the film by far is the superb performance by Christoph Waltz, as Col. Hans Landa. He is extraordinarily frightening as the Nazi operative who finds hiding Jews. The opening scene, which could easily be too long, is held together quite adeptly by his metered portrayal of a patient and exacting hunter. He manages to be cold, without being bored, or boring. He is so believable and scary. The very sound of the creaking of his leather jacket sends up chills.
If Tarantino wanted to make a nazi slasher movie, he should have done that. If he wanted to make a taut spy drama, he should have done that. Instead, he tried to put the two together and both halves suffered for it. To be fair, no matter what he might have done to pare it down would have only helped in the slightest, because what you are left with is still trite, annoying, transparent and vain.