Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied France…


I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be one of those films that splits the CS camp straight down the middle, and I fully expect plenty of late night drink-fuelled arguments discussions.

I’m not going to bother giving you a breakdown of the story etc. as you can get that from anywhere. Firstly I wanted to prefix my views by saying that I am a massive Tarantino fan. I thought that everything up to DEATHPROOF was pretty much perfect and I even thought that the second half of DEATHPROOF was excellent, it was just that the first half was overly dialogue heavy (even for Tarantino) and some pretty poor acting – stand up Eli Roth!

Ok, so going into the cinema I was definitely excited by the prospect of this film, and initially I wasn’t disappointed.

It opens with some excellent cinematography and faultless acting from Christoph Waltz who took Best Actor award in Cannes and should, in my opinion, definitely get an OSCAR nomination. An electrifying first scene involving almost 30 minutes of pure dialogue introduced us to the stand-out character in the film, ‘The Jew Hunter” Col. Hans Landa.

Tarantino cranks up the atmosphere as Landa interrogates a French farmer who he suspects of hiding Jews from the Germans, the hairs were beginning to stand up on the back of my neck through both what I was seeing on the screen and in anticipation of what the rest of the film was like.

Following this scene, we immediately cut to Brad Pitt’s Basterds. Again, as we are introduced the group in classic Tarantino style, in my head this was the best film I’d ever seen and I could even get past the casting of Eli Roth as ‘The Bear Jew’ Donnie Donowitz. It was being set up as a Dirty Dozen-style rag tag bunch of American Jewish soldiers with the (hopeful) finale of the film being a confrontation between Pitt’s Aldo Raine and Colonel Landa.

Unfortunately, I had reached the high point of the film and there was only one way to go from here – down. We then go off into a completely different story regarding a plot to blow up a cinema owned by a French resistance fighter when there is a premiere of a German film with all of the top brass in attendance, including Adolf Hitler himself. The Basterds make fleeting appearances, and are instrumental at the end, but nothing matches up to the first hour.

For me it was a feeling of real frustration at a missed chance. I think there was a great story to be told about this group of soldiers hunting and scalping Nazis, which leads to an ultimate confrontation between good and evil. Tarantino has crafted a couple of excellent characters in Raine and Landa and it was a real shame that they were underused.

Instead we have a film that has an amazing first hour but than fades due to a director who chose excessive conversational setups over adding in some compelling action scenes. I don’t know if it’s that he’s not confident in his own ability to do a kind of high octane action film, but if he doesn’t start thinking outside of his box and stop listening to some of the yes men movie-geeks he appears to surround himself with (yes Eli, that’s you again), I’m worried that Tarantino’s best work may be behind him.

I’m sure Colin will chime in with his thoughts once he’s seen it, but until then it’s at best a 3 out of five for us.

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