Pros? Well, let's start with "hurray for Steadicam!" Finally, a movie that doesn't require taking two Dramamine in the lobby beforehand - hallelujah. Next, I'm happy to report that Waltz isn't the only heretofore-unknown (to Yanks, at least) European find the movie offers: Daniel Bruhl, Melanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender and Denis Menochet all turn in first-rate work. Fassbender's entire performance is a film-geek inside joke (he's Trevor Howard in THE THIRD MAN brought out of retirement, kinda), but it's a satisfying inside joke; Laurent and Bruhl provide the film with both heart and moral complexity; and Menochet - who resembles a younger, handsomer Jean Reno - is the unheralded component in that celebrated first scene, whose superb straight-man work sets up/off Waltz beautifully. The Bowie song works exactly as Tarantino intended it to (though he needs to lay off the Morricone swipes for a while - once is an homage; twice, a ripoff). The pacing, which has drawn criticism, is leisurely throughout, but that's okay: Tarantino is a storyteller who's as much about the asides as the plot - probably more so. He takes his time, sure, but we want him to linger in this world. (If your beef with IB is the glacial rhythm of the setpieces, wait a few weeks/months and watch it again - you'll probably discover you've changed your mind about the 'pacing' issue.) As for his long suit - the dialogue - he's mostly on form. And at least for once we get to listen to 40s hipsters, instead of the more tiresome contemporary kind (and I do mean tiresome: David Carradine's KILL BILL 2 monologue pretty much took the air out of that movie's tires, while DEATH PROOF clattered along, riding on its rims, interminably.)
Now for the cons. The marketing campaign for the film is just that, a con, and a huge one, right down to the "kosher porn" and "as a Jew, I thank you" quotes attached to the production; primarily designed to separate suckers from their scratch. (Somehow, I doubt Lawrence Bender and Harvey Weinstein would be very enthusiastic at the number of likable and even heroic Nazis in the movie had IB tanked that all-important First Weekend of Release.) This might be the first commando picture with hardly any commandoes in it! Secondly, there are so many logical and historical gaffes in the film they turn, inevitably, into potholes - you're willing to endure the first few w/o complaint, growing more and more ticked off as they just keep coming. (And please, no cries of "duh! - it's a MOVIE, Einstein!" We're not talking about a few holes here, but a block of Swiss cheese.) Third, the casting of Hitler and Goebbels is disastrous - a little levity is one thing, but this is CARRY ON FUEHRER!
And last (though hardly least) is the most troubling of all: at some deeper level, Tarantino movies are always about the cruelly kinetic joy of sadism and murder....and IB proudly continues this odious 'tradition'. The 'feminist' - and now, 'anti-fascist' - subtext of his films are just cynical window dressing, there to provide convenient but utterly bogus moral cover for the atrocities that make QT's wee-wee twitch to attention. Which isn't to say they're not effective: the image of Laurent's face superimposed on smoke in the film's gotterdammerung finale is real nightmare material, with a phantasmagoric eerieness that's hard to shake. But the crux of this sequence is watching screaming people trapped by design in a fiery inferno, and it's presented as popcorn-munching entertainment for the masses (we're meant to applaud in delight); given the hideous parallels to everything from the Triangle Factory to the Station nightclub (and to the poor souls who tossed themselves from the top of the WTC on 9/11 rather than burn to cinders), it's an evil scene. Depicting such a horror is one thing - CELEBRATING it as catharsis is something else entirely...... entirely too much, in my view. (The legion of Tarantino fanboys will no doubt insist that it's meant not to feed an audience's bloodlust, but instead to provoke thought and discussion. Well in that case, I'll be waiting for the Museum of Modern Art to book a HOSTEL II/MAN BEHIND THE SUN double-feature any day now.)
So there you have it. A well-made, fairly riveting Tootsie Pop, with a cancerous center lying in wait under the candy coating. I liked it for what it did well, though obviously with some deep misgivings; your own mileage may vary.