Showing posts with label Christoph Waltz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christoph Waltz. Show all posts

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Inglourious Basterds

Set in Nazi occupied France, Inglourious Basterds is a film that took Quentin Tarantino over a decade to write and produce. Multiple plot threads, an ever expanding script and difficulty with the movie’s conclusion meant that from first to final draft, a decade had elapsed. The completed script is one of pure Tarantino penmanship. Featuring ideas of revenge, duplicity and malice while scattered with pop references, albeit from a different era, Inglouious Basterds is as Tarantino as a Mexican stand-off in a Big Kahuna Burger Restaurant. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and taking over $320 million worldwide, it is also one of the director’s most successful to date.

Split into five chapters, the film focuses on the efforts of two sets of people to bring down the Third Reich. Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) is a young Jewish woman who, early in the film, escapes death at the hands of the gifted ‘Jew Hunter’ Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Having dodged an early grave, Shosanna relocates to Paris where she runs a small cinema which we shall come back to later. Meanwhile, elsewhere in France, the Basterds, a group of American Jewish soldiers, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) are scouring the countryside in search of Nazis to bludgeon and scalp. When the Basterds hear that the entire Nazi high command will be in Paris for the Premier of Goebbels latest propaganda film, they set in motion a plan to end the war the very same night.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Django Unchained

After years of threatening to do so, Quentin Tarantino has finally made his Western, or Southern as he would have it known. Django Unchained takes place in 1858 in Texas and its surrounding states. On the eve of the Civil War and with slavery still thriving in the South, a German Dentist called Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz) comes across a slave he has been looking for called Django (Jamie Foxx). Shultz, a Dentist turned bounty hunter frees Django on the promise that the former slave will help him track down three overseers who Django can recognise. Once the men are dead and Shultz has his bounty, he promises Django $75 dollars and a horse but decides to further help the man when he discovers that his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) has been cruelly separated from her husband and sold to the wicked Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio).

As with any Tarantino film there have been moths of anticipation for the release of Django Unchained and the fact that it received five Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe wins before it was even released in the UK further heightened my excitement for its arrival. In the end the film doesn’t disappoint. It is a fantastic mix of drama, comedy, cruelty and violence and features a typically excellent screenplay and some terrific performances but a plodding finale and long run time stop it from in my eyes joining the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction at the top of the Director’s cannon.

Friday, 3 February 2012


Imagine a middle class version of Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle. Swap the Blue WKD for eighteen year old, single malt Scotch, the tracksuits for sharp suits and sharper tongues. Takeaway the child with six possible fathers and introduce an argument regarding a child’s fight and you have Carnage, the brilliant new film from Roman Polanski.

Set in Brooklyn though filmed in Paris due to Polanski’s ongoing legal problems, Carnage is set around two middle class couples meeting to discuss an altercation between their eleven year old sons. Almost the entire film takes place in the Brooklyn apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet who are played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly. They are joined by Alan and Nancy Cowen, played by Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, whose son is seen attacking the Longstreet’s boy in the films opening scene.

What starts off as a civil conversation, albeit with subtle antagonistic undertones soon unravels into a hostile; vomit strewn mess with arguments covering everything from hamsters to Darfur by way of toilet flush mechanisms. The angst of middle class political correctness is felt as both sides desperately try to remain calm and polite while losing control of their tongues more and more with every sentence. One of the best things about the script is how the arguing and bickering isn’t contained between the two couples. Every now and then it will switch so that perhaps it is three against one or drawn on gender lines. This enriches the film and stops it from stagnating. It is often when one person in particular is turned upon by two or three of the others that they shine, John C. Reilly for instance although excellent throughout, is at his best when backed into a corner by Winslet and Foster.

The acting on the whole is outstanding and the ensemble cast works very well together. Each actor is given at least a couple of moments when they can come to the fore and show what they’ve got but the other three are always ready and waiting in the middle distance for their turn. If I had to choose I’d say that Kate Winslet gives the best performance overall but both Reilly and Foster have scenes where they are sublime. Waltz, plays the role of an arrogant, slightly slimy lawyer who never fails to say what he thinks and while I don’t believe this is a stretch for him, he plays it rather well, especially considering he is not performing in his first language. Inglorious Basterds was no fluke.

What adds to the wonderful script and acting is the setting. While the apartment helps to intensify the tension and feeling that all are trapped, it never feels overly claustrophobic. On a few occasions, the Cowen’s are on the verge of leaving and get as far as the elevator. You can feel yourself urging them to get in and run but something always stops them. This is both adds to the tension and is comical.

The comedy is where the film really had me. The dialogue is cutting and sharp-witted and there is a laugh almost every couple of minutes. In fact, I laughed more during this film than in any since I saw Black Dynamite maybe two years ago. The looks between each couple are also perfectly timed. The whole thing feels very natural which makes it even funnier. Nothing seems forced. The more farcical moments are timely and spread thin.

If I did have one complaint about the film it would be in its marketing. The trailer features a scene in which a mobile phone is ‘disposed of’. The phone plays an integral part in altering the casts emotions during the film and each time Waltz answered it I was waiting for what I’d seen in the trailer. This distracted me somewhat as I was thinking to myself “this must be it…” each time I saw it emerge from his inside jacket pocket. While this isn’t a major problem, it annoys me when films give away too much in a trailer. Christoph Waltz’s and John C. Reilly’s reaction to what we see makes up for having seen it so many times however, is one of the funniest parts of the film and also where it turns into Carnage.