It’s often said about ambitiously failed works of art that they have greatness in them. That but for the grace of the muses – a better edit here, a dialogue tweak there – the work in question would have been able to vault that shadowy and indistinct line that separate those things which ultimately worked and those that didn’t. This isn’t much help to the filmmakers, of course, because such statements are often left vague and fuzzy, the speaker trailing off into an indecipherable musing on what exactly it was that left them so nonplussed.
In the case of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, the film doesn’t just have greatness in it, there’s mighty rivers of greatness simply leaking out of the thing. Its multi-lingual dialogue sings and trills with dangerously poetic abandon. The spine-shivering soundtrack is heaped high with deeply wonderful slabs of tweaked Morricone and Schifrin, not to mention an excitingly repurposed David Bowie track from his “Let’s Dance” period. There’s at least two Oscar-worthy performances in here, and that reckoning doesn’t even take into account watching Brad Pitt – as a flinty Appalachian officer leading his titular band of Jewish-American soldiers around the Western Front scalping Nazis – having more fun than he’s been witnessed experiencing on-screen since the early 1990s.