It's not often I do a separate post on such a mainstream film, but I wanted to brain dump by initial thoughts and here they are:
I don't think Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino's finest work, but I love anything he turns his hands to, including this. It does have some of the structure of Kill Bill and, like it, its main weaknesses are the indulgences and lack of tight disciple of most of his other films.
The violence is the most explicit of any Tarantino film and I question how often we needed to see a head scalped. Especially the last one, the activity could have take place off-screen with just the sounds and it would have been more effective.
In my mind, Tarantino seemed more than ever to be attempting to subvert genres. The opening credits exemplify that with the western font and Morricone-like score. The credits then changed to a contemporary arthouse-style before changing once again to a 1970's style. Throughout the film, Tarantino would appear to follow one genre convention, but then mix it with another, usually from a different period. This was most obvious with the music choices, but there were other details, which elude me right now.
The music is generally very good, though one track towards the end - I'm not sure who it was, but it sounded a little like Nick Cave - seemed right out of place.
Like any Tarantino film, it's largely dialogue driven, and is always entertaining. I like the way he assembles the chapters, which adds different angles and scenarios to exploit cinematically. The start is quite subdued but effective, and the growing momentum creates quite a lot of excitement as time progresses. Unfortunately, he can't maintain the momentum, and this is where I think Tarantino's indulgences are slightly his undoing (but by no means fatally). I found the last half hour to be a little laborious, dragged on more than necessary, which shouldn't be the case, given the climax scenario.
The performances were strong throughout with some really imaginative characterisations created by Tarantino and well-executed by the respective cast. The multi-lingual aspect is a fresh infusion by Tarantino and works just fine. The details of three fingers is an interesting cultural element that recalls the early dialogue in Pulp Fiction about Le Big Mac.
The climactic ending underscores how much this film is a fantasy, given how much it defies the historical record. But it's a lovely indulgence and I thought the Jewish aspect was real cute, given that the Weinstein producers are obviously Jewish.
All in all, I found the film really satisfying and would be happy to see it again. However, I doubt it will stand up to the multiple viewings that most of Tarantino's other films do. It is definitely one of the most entertaining films of the year, a real 'movie', which is what QT does best. In fact, his films (including this one) are 'hyper-movies', the very best examples of how entertaining movies can be.