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Inglourious Basterds (2009; Rated Rated R)

Inglourious Basterds

“ One of the best movies of the year.”

-Richard Roeper


Inglourious Basterds

(2009; R)

In theaters:
Friday, 21 August 2009

Official Movie Site:

Summary: In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as "The Basterds" are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. The Basterds soon cross paths with a French-Jewish teenage girl who runs a movie theater in Paris which is targeted by the soldiers.

Drama, War

Quentin Tarantino

Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz

Apparently some critics are upset at Quentin Tarantino for creating a revenge-fantasy, parallel-universe World War II movie in which a team of Jewish bounty hunters scalp Nazis, history is rewritten at every turn and Brad Pitt talks like the offspring of Forrest Gump and a Monty Python character.

Guess we should also condemn “The Blues Brothers” for the gratuitous use of “Illinois Nazis,” and of course Indiana Jones, and “The Dirty Dozen,” and…

Or we could recognize a big-ass drive-in movie for what it is.

Offensive? Really? As if audiences aren’t smart enough to discern that “Inglourious Basterds” is a cinematic mash-up in which Tarantino samples everything from the spaghetti Western to the film noirs of the 1940s to movies like “The Dirty Dozen.” He’s not engaging in Holocaust denial or exploiting history; he’s giving us a great B-movie that careens wildly from style to style but is always, always letting us in on the experience. Here is a movie, Tarantino tells us from the opening scene, which is the best opening scene in any film of 2009. It is not to be taken seriously at any turn. Enjoy the ride.

The “Basterds” of the title are a team of bloodthirsty, Jewish soldiers led by Brad Pitt’s (decidedly non-Jewish) twangy-voiced, goofy-mustached Lt. Aldo Raine. (A nod to old-time character actor Aldo Ray, who was in a number of war pictures.) They are not interested in capturing German soldiers; they are interested in hunt-and-execution, but only after inflicting as much pain as possible on their prey as they extricate information about the location of other Nazis.

Pitt delivers a robust and hilarious performance—-but the Basterds aren’t even the most intriguing characters Tarantino has assembled in yet another one of his brilliant, deeply layered screenplays in which multiple storylines play out at a leisurely pace before intersecting in ingenious and of course bloody fashion.

In the opening scene, we meet the Nazi officer Hans Landa, who takes pride in his nickname: “Jew Hunter.” Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (Best Actor winner at Cannes) gives the supporting performance of the year and one of the most memorable performances of the decade as Landa, a Satanic figure with a silky smooth veneer. Landa sits across the table from a French farmer, downing the farmer’s milk, lighting up his pipe and affecting a friendly tone as he verbally vivisects the poor man into divulging information about a Jewish family that’s been in hiding for months. It is a masterful scene, with the tension escalating like a drip…drip…dripping faucet that cannot be silenced. If those opening minutes were released as a self-contained story, it would be worthy of an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film.

But Tarantino is just getting warmed up. In addition to meeting Aldo Raine and his team of vigilantes (including director Eli Roth in a terrific turn as a killer known as the “Bear Jew,” who revels in beating his victims to death with a baseball bat), we see Hitler and Goebbels as cartoonishly grotesque parodies (and why not?); Michael Fassbender as a British commando who also happens to be a film critic (CQ); and Diane Kruger as a famous and beloved actress working as a double agent.

Most and best of all there’s the luminous Melanie Laurent as Shoshanna, who narrowly escaped Landa’s clutches a few years earlier and is seen a few years later, running a cinema in German-occupied Paris. A German war hero tries to court her (she’s repulsed) by convincing Goebbels they should premiere the fictional version of the war hero’s story at Shoshanna’s movie house. When Hitler himself decides he’ll attend the premiere, Shoshanna and Aldo launch separate and equally insane schemes to turn that premiere into a night the Nazis will never forget—-that is, if any of them survive.

That’s the meat-and-potatoes of “Inglourious Basterds.” There’s no shortage of quality kills and over-the-top violence—-but as is always the case with Tarantino, the real exhilaration comes from extended sequences peppered with funny, smart, surprising exchanges, followed by bursts of violence. At one point Kruger’s Bridget sets up a meet with a team of Allied agents masquerading as German officers in a cellar bar populated by real German soldiers who are getting drunk, as well as a keen-eared Nazi officer who is lurking around the corner, picking up that something ain’t right in the bar. It’s a World War II version of the scene in “True Romance” when everybody winds up in the same room, and things are light and casual for a while—-and then, not so much. What a great piece of filmmaking.

My only disappointment with “Inglourious Basterds” comes with the final act, which is set up so beautifully but doesn’t quite fire on every cylinder. Shoshanna’s revenge plan isn’t as clever as you’d expect it to be, and a few characters exit the movie in less than satisfying fashion. As for the pure-evil Hans Landa: he has some amazing moments near the end, but I would have liked to see—-well, I don’t want to give anything away. After the movie’s been out for a while, I’ll return to Landa’s fate.

For more than a few critics and cinephiles, Quentin Tarantino will always be held against the Quentin Tarantino who revolutionized movies with “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” just as M. Night Shyamalan will never live down the expectations created by “The Sixth Sense.” Both directors would probably admit they might have enjoyed the hype and the fame a bit too much, and that may have rubbed some people the wrong way. And maybe neither will ever match the greatness of the movies that turned them into icons.

Fine: “Inglourious Basterds” isn’t as good as “Pulp Fiction.” Neither are 99.9 percent of films that have come out in the last 15 years.

It’s still one of the best movies of 2009.

Post a Comment

Trenton Muellersaid on Thursday, September 09, 2010 10:07:40 PM
Perhaps it is my immaturity that leads me to my personal thoughts that the movie fell completely flat. For two hours, I was waiting for the funny, quirky, hilarious scenes that I had read and heard about from reviewers, internet solicitors, and friends. For the last one hour of the movie, I had contemplated whether or not the cinema had accidentally screened the wrong movie, but quickly deducted otherwise.

I am surprised that it has been received so well by the general public, but I didn't enjoy the gruesome scenes in which I cringed nor the serious acting I hadn't watched the movie for. A very contradicting film to me, and won't make it into even my top 50 movies.

Mikesaid on Monday, August 23, 2010 5:36:47 PM
A Hollywood movie with Nazi Germans trying to outdo Hollywood Jews at making Hollywood movies. There is just something too poetic about that.

Angelsaid on Friday, March 05, 2010 2:59:40 PM
I know this movie has been given rave reviews, but I was not impressed. True to Tarantino style this movie had violence for the sake of violence. Swearing just to swear. Few lines were delivered without an unneccessary amount of profanity thrown in to, no doubt, shock...only after the one millionth f were numb to it all. I regret the time, money, and wasted "date night" that was spent on this movie.

Steve Horlicksaid on Monday, February 01, 2010 12:10:13 AM
I know it's not likely to happen, but just imagine the quirky possibilities in a sequel.

Sarasaid on Saturday, January 30, 2010 3:30:56 PM
This was one of the best movies from 2009. It was funny and tense and comical and brutally violent. The best opening scene of any movie I've ever seen. The tension was so palpable, I couldn't look away for even a second.

kodysaid on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 3:07:25 PM
the movie was awsome! tarantino did it again

JRMsaid on Sunday, January 17, 2010 4:35:38 AM
I absolutely loved this movie, and I agree with every word in your review.

drewsaid on Saturday, January 16, 2010 7:32:31 PM
I do not see why everyone loves this movie so much. Regretted watching the entire thing. What a let down, Tarantino continues to be more of a cliche of himself with every movie he makes. Hanz was the only good character, but even then he was such a characature of a bad guy that he failed to seem evil. Movie was also full of bland dialogue that a second grader might mistake for being witty, and "fluff" scenes that add nothing to the film... one example comes immediately to mind: Shoshanna getting dressed and putting her lipstick on to music..... just leaves the impression of a director trying way to hard to be "sexy" or "artistic"... fails miserably. If you want a good WWII movie along these lines watch Defiance. One last note the opening sequence was pretty good...the rest of the movie is not worth watching.

jacksaid on Monday, December 28, 2009 3:55:28 PM
I was a little disapointed with Diane Krugar's exit in the film, although a very good scene but I thought her character was very under used and her performance was very strong in the scenes she was in. Christoph Waltz deserves a Best Supporting Actor Nomination for his unbelievable work here.

junierizzlesaid on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 9:27:48 PM
I diagree with you about the final act. I LOVED IT. SOshana's exit was amazing. Beatifually shot, Qt picked the perfect piece of music for that scene. Even though the entire movie was clearly not a historical documentation, I was not expecting what happened at all. My only complain is that I would've have liked to see more of the BASTERDS. But QT gave me someting so unexpected and great that it didn't matter that there wasn't more of the BASTERDS.

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