Inglourious Basterds

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Notable Cast: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Daniel Bruhl                                                                                           Rating: R

What a hell of a good time watching a movie.  Quentin strikes again with another memorable masterpiece that takes a part of history, re-writes it, and totally brings it into the world of Tarantino.  I will admit that when I walked out of the theater, I didn’t have as much to say about it until I watched it again on DVD.  For some reason that second viewing opened my eyes so much more and my enjoyment of the movie almost doubled.  In my opinion, there was so much going on that I didn’t have enough time to appreciate all of it just from one simple viewing.  This is an amazing film (still not better than Pulp Fiction, but don’t get me started), and for Tarantino fans I have to rate it number 3 out of all his films, falling only to Reservoir Dogs and one of my all-time favorites, Pulp Fiction.  That’s not too bad on a 1, 2, 3 list though, is it.

Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…(god I love that opener) we have two main stories happening at the same time.  On one hand you have the rag-tag group of Jewish-American soldiers (“the Basterds”) sent directly into France.  Their mission is to kill as many Nazisas possible and take them down from the inside using guerrilla tactics.  The platoon is headed by Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt), a simple southern man who demands 100 Nazi scalps from every one of his soldiers granting him the nickname of “Aldo The Apache.” Each one of them are given names by the Germans, for instance Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Roth).  He is known as “The Bear Jew” because of his large muscular build and the brutal way he dispatches of the Germans unlucky enough to come across him.  Their story follows them around France, trying to kill every Nazi they can.  The rivaling story comes from small movie theater owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent), who is actually a jew hiding out in France under a fake identity.  Problems arise though when a German soldier/actor named Fredrick Zoller (Bruhl) becomes infatuated with her while in town for the premier of his new film.  He convinces the Nazi higher-ups to switch the premier of his film from a large venue to Shosanna’s small theater because he thinks he is doing her a favor. Shosanna is first taken aback when she realizes that the Nazi officer in charge of running security, Col. Hans Landa, is an evil figure from her past.  Then to make things even more complex, Shosanna finds out that every influential figure in the Nazi regime will be attending, and all in her theater.  She isn’t the only one who finds out though.  So do “the Basterds”.  What follows is the efforts of “the Basterds” to attend the screening and the plans Shossana starts hatching for the same reason: to deal as much damage to the Nazis as possible.

Like any good Tarantino film (all of them?), he creates this atmosphere where every character seems to have some kind of interesting personality about them.  Take for instance Col. Hans Landa.  From his hilarious butchering of the English language (“Thats a bingo!!”) to his suave and sophisticated personality, it makes him all the more scary of a villain than just a brain-dead meathead.  He knows he is the best, he is extremely cocky, he always gets the job done and he knows it.  Raine is a quick talking southerner who always has something to say and will do whatever it takes to complete a mission.  The way he handles his men is hilarious and his plans are borderline insane, but of course that won’t stop him.  Donowitz may be my favorite character, who is just a loudmouth from Boston that savours every single Nazi kill, especially his last (complete brutality).  That’s the magic that Tarantino creates, making these characters that are so memorable people still talk about them years after the movie has been made.  Inglourious Basterds is no different, even earning Waltz a Golden Globe win, a Critics choice win, an Oscar nod which he is a favorite to win (and he damn well better), amongst many other wins for just that one character.  We also shouldn’t overlook the acting from these actors either because creating the characters is only one aspect.  You have to cast them perfectly in order for them to be as big of a success as you in-vision them to be.  Well if I were to grade the casting, I’d give QT an A+ because there isn’t a single character here I thought could have used some tweaking or a different actor.  They bring so much personality to the screen you forget they are just actors.  They become who their characters are.  Instead of just saying “oh Brad Pitt plays Aldo Raine.”  No.  He is Aldo Raine.  There is no Brad Pitt when Raine is one the screen.  The dedication from the actors is also undeniable, just being given the chance to be in one of Tarantino’s films.  Eli Roth put on about 40 pounds of muscle to play his character, “The Bear Jew.”  That shows just how far actor’s will go to get in his movies, and honestly just how committed these actors are to their craft.  And like any Tarantino movie, mainstays Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel pop up, but only their voices.  If you haven’t seen the film, see if you can pick them out (not too hard so not a really fun game now that I think about it).

Yes, that’s the kid from Freaks and Geeks.

My only problem with this movie was that “the Basterds” did not get enough screen time.  I was much more interested in their story, but instead got a stronger focus on Shosanna and her escapades.  But if the only problem is that fact that you create characters so entertaining the audience can only want to see want more of them, I don’t think you have much of a problem then.  Hell, its more of an opportunity than a problem.  If Tarantino puts together that Inglourious Basterds prequel he mentioned (rumors but still I can hope!) about “the Basterd’s” campaign in Italy, it will probably the most anticipated movie ever for me.  That quip aside though, Tarantino brings every aspect that succeeded in all his past movies to Inglourious Basterds.  There is no way around the fact that Tarantino is an amazing story-teller.  He never shorts you on any details and he never ever holds anything back from the viewer.  He includes every scene for a reason, no matter what the content is (for example, the man on man rape scene in Pulp Fiction).  All movie I was waiting for Tarantino to show us Aldo marking the German soldiers in his unique way, and just when I thought the movie was over Tarantino does a nice zoom in shot of Aldo at work in all his gory glory.  I love the fact that he does this though, not making a movie for what he thinks the viewers can handle.  Also, the man is a a genius at writing dialogue.  His word selection and topics of discussion and amusing and hilarious. Perfect examples are the discussion of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, talking about cheeseburgers multiple times in Pulp Fiction, and done perfectly in Inglourious Basterds when they are playing the tavern game in the basement of the bar.  It’s not just filler bullshit that many filmmakers end up putting in just to get from point A to point B between characters. Tarantino takes the filler and makes it just as entertaining for the audience as the crucial dialogue meant to further them movie.  The conversations also build up so much tension, like in the first scene of Inglourious Basterds.  Hans Landa toys with the owner of the farm as you watch in suspense for when Landa will make his move to get the real answer for his question.  Landa could have easily just jumped down the man’s throat and forced an answer that way.  The scene lasts for what seems to be about 20 minutes when in reality Tarantino could have ended the scene in about 5 minutes.  But the way Tarantino writes his character’s dialogue is more like they set a trap for one another, dancing around with their words until one of the characters is backed into a corner.  It creates so much more intrigue and Tarantino is such a master at this art that it brings the movie to a whole other level in intensity and entertainment.

So overall, Inglourious Basterds brings an enjoyable experience to the table tying together a few strong stories, a bevy of memorable characters, and bringing all of Tarantino’s style to WWII.  Not to mention the outstanding job that the cast did delivering performances that were outstanding and bringing the characters themselves to life.  It wasn’t a war movie per say, more of a war-time film with no real big battle scenes. But as only Tarantino can do, he sets his movie aside from other war stories and has it stand high above on its own level.  It is impossible to compare this movie to any other war film in fact, bringing something unique and again totally the style only Tarantino can produce.   This was one of my favorite movies of 09, and should score a win or two come The Oscars for Tarantino and his cast.

Final Rating: 8.5 Nazi Scalps out of 10

Only Tarantino could get away with calling his film a masterpiece IN HIS OWN FILM!



About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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