Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  • Time: 153 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Drama | War
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Cast: Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Brühl


In Nazi-occupied France, young Jewish refugee Shosanna Dreyfus witnesses the slaughter of her family by Colonel Hans Landa. Narrowly escaping with her life, she plots her revenge several years later when German war hero Fredrick Zoller takes a rapid interest in her and arranges an illustrious movie premiere at the theater she now runs. With the promise of every major Nazi officer in attendance, the event catches the attention of the “Basterds”, a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by the ruthless Lt. Aldo Raine. As the relentless executioners advance and the conspiring young girl’s plans are set in motion, their paths will cross for a fateful evening that will shake the very annals of history.


  • I’ve always been a big fan of Tarantino films, and this was certainly a good addition to his line-up of entertaining films, even though it wasn’t his best.

    The overall plot, in my opinion, wasn’t the strongest. It didn’t feel like it was well drawn up and instead felt quite disorganised, in particular, I didn’t feel as if the Basterds fitted in well with the rest of the plot. Their role in the movie felt rather forced, and the scenes with the Basterds were, in my opinion, the weakest scenes in the movie.

    Yet, while the plot wasn’t really rich, the film made up for it with its tense, memorable scenes and memorable performances. As expected with Tarantino, he builds up the tension with lengthy scenes and long periods of dialogue. Oh, and of course the comedic over-the-top violence that Tarantino is renowned for does occur in this movie don’t worry, but at no point was it out of place.

    But really, what made the film was the acting from Christoph Waltz. Before this film, Waltz was a relatively unknown actor hailing from Vienna, yet afterwards, he was transformed into a mainstream actor who all of the film directors are chasing after, and after watching Inglourious Basterds, you can see why. Waltz played the part of SS Colonel Landa to perfection. Honestly the character is one of the best villains ever in cinema history in my opinion. It was just the sheer competence, elegance and ruthlessness the man possessed made him absolutely compelling. Tarantino himself had fears that the role simply could not be played, yet Waltz completely smashed his fear, with style.

    As for the rest of the acting, I have to give good mention to Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, and overall the general acting performances were solid, although, I am critical of Brad Pitt. I felt, especially as one of the main characters, he didn’t really create any connection with the viewer, and the role was relatively pedestrian and simple, so this shouldn’t be a film that Pitt is renowned for.

    Overall though, whilst the film wasn’t Tarantino’s best, it’s certainly a film that was very entertaining and kept my interest the whole way through, so it’s certainly worth watching, especially to witness the incredible acting from Waltz. I’d give the movie 8.5/10!

  • TARANTINO FAN ALERT waaa waaa waaa

    Or am I ?
    I want to be a fan because Pulp Fiction 1994 is a stand-out movie for me: Pulp Fiction marks the beginning of my foray into film appreciation and film criticism. But Death Proof 2007, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained 2012 are leading me away from this shallow adoration.

    I saw Inglorious Basterds when it was on general release. I watched it again 2 years later. And again with my son last year. He’s a big fan. I watched it again last week.

    There is definitely something wrong with it.
    What though?
    This worries me on two scores. Firstly it concerns me that I am unhappy with a Tarantino movie – which is sacrilegious. But secondly, where are my critical skills? I struggle to voice my unease with the film in terms that sound remotely intelligent:

    “I just don’t like it somehow.”

    “I feel less than inspired…”

    “It’s shit…”

    It is because it lacks coherence. Inglorious Basterds is a series of films stuck together:
    The opening film is my favourite. It is the opening movement (sonata) in this flawed symphony. And a sonata is split into four sections:

    1. The French farm house sits exquisitely on a shoulder of land over looking semi-alpine meadows. This is the foundation of the symphony. (I want to say the background on which the director paints – but now I’m mixing my metaphors and I have to stick to the musical one – doh!) This beautiful location is the violins, violas, cellos, mewing and sawing an ambient and beautiful soundscape. A pale late-summer sun plays off the yellowed fields and the trees frame every shot. Brilliantly played by Christoph Weiss, Colonel Hans Landa’s sedate approach along the winding road gives us time to look. And think. A rare filmic artifice indeed.

    2. The dialogue is like the Nazi Jew Hunter’s arrival along the sublime curving road – studied and sedate. Landa’s First Violin gently bobs and weaves around Perrier LaPadite’s Bassoon – like a knowing shark swimming around an aging seal, already resigned to its death. (Is that a mixed metaphor or just lazy writing?) I love Hans Landa’s polite self-assurance and his hints at submerged and manic humour. I love M. LaPadite’s sad and inert acknowledgement of his powerlessness.

    3. The third section is what composers call the recapitulation – here we see the brutality we’ve been waiting for all along.

    4. The coda – a final nod to the recurrent musical tone as Shosanna makes her escape alongside the shrill song of Landa’s wit.
    This Symphony is also split into four. The first movement we’ve seen. Tarantino mixes the second and third movements into one. The second movement, traditionally a slow tempo, is a wandering band of vigilantes. We are in the woods. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt looking uncomfortable) is an improbably vengeful and comedic American. In the pursuit of any Nazi scalp, he has created a Kelly’s Heroes-like band of assorted and maladjusted Jews who stalk the occupied territories seeding fear and despair.
    Tarantino gives us more in this feast of stereotypes:- the laughably self-referential English-types; hard drinking Germans; sleazy and slimy Gestapo; and crisp beautiful Deutche Frau in Tyrollean hats.
    And inexplicably, all these groups come together in a Bar in Nadine, France.

    The third movement runs within the second. We rediscover Shosanna (Jew) in Paris running a Cinéma with a Negro (sic) and probably some dwarves, gypsies and disabled folk (although we don’t get to see them). Either Tarantino just doesn’t write good women, or she is deliberately two-dimensional. Apart from some squirmy discomfort as Landa noisily dissects his Strudel (check out the close up as the spoon tears into the whipped cream – genius), she appears to be a cardboard cut-out with no motivation other than that we give her.
    A symphonic third movement comprises the Minuet and Trio – a mess of interplays, contrasts, moods and themes: Shosanna, her Negro, a doting German hero, Landa, Goebbels and his interpreter. Bounce bounce bounce.

    Inglorious Basterds finally ends with an inflated intention and with underwhelming delivery – the Rondo (fourth movement). It’s fast and furious and pretty loud. Shosanna in a dress the same red as the swastikas that drape her cinema. Hans Landa utterly and beautifully manic as he twists and turns on the hook of credibility. Firestorms and murderous slaughter are the couplets in this agonised finale. Humour and sympathy are the victims.

    Brad still looks uncomfortable. Everyone ends up pretty dead.
    Or as good as… (Nantucket in winter – never a good choice…)

    Last night I watched a fictionalized account of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel, 1961. It was about the filming of the trial and followed the producer and director as they recorded this historic event. Cleverly, the film interwove original footage from the trial into the narrative. We saw and heard the witnesses, and Eichmann himself.
    It was heart wrenching stuff. It was – and that was despite being manipulated by the narrative combined with some heavy-handed acting – telling us to be heart wrenched. I tend to switch off when I’m told how to feel. But this story is so big…

    Eichmann was the overseer of the Jewish ‘evacuation’ in the thirties and later throughout the war. He followed orders willingly.
    Eichmann sat through the whole trial impassively. Which did little to endear him to the world. He denied responsibility for the deaths of Jews.
    “He simply organised the trains”.
    He was a small cog in an industrial killing machine. Was he culpable?

    I’ve always been intrigued by how few Gestapo Officers there were in Nazi Germany to control and direct the civilian population. In fact, one officer per 5000 population on average!
    They did it by sowing fear. Fear of the Gestapo. Fear of your neighbour. Fear of your children. There were very few human representatives of power, and yet most of the population obeyed their Government’s bidding. They never spoke out, never “put their heads above the parapet”. Normal people continued to do normal things despite abnormal circumstances. Were they culpable?

    I do my best thinking in the shower. Not very eco-friendly if I have a big problem to sort. And it’s murder on the skin.
    In my shower this morning, I had a eureka moment: Inglorious Basterds refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the people involved. Tarantino doesn’t begin to understand how people work on a macro-scale. How herd behaviour works. He doesn’t recognise that the vast majority of normal people like us, soldiers and civilians alike, would do the same as Non-Nazi Germans would. We’d keep our heads down, do what we are told. Survive.
    Very few of us would rebel or fight back. Very few would organise underground anti-authoritarian organisations. Very few would sow dissent.
    There are very few heroes per head of population.

    Eichmann was a card-carrying Nazi and actively engaged with the process of the holocaust. He was pleased to serve. He deserved to be punished.
    Tarantino would have us think every German soldier was a Nazi. This isn’t even remotely close. It’s a ridiculous premise that was abandoned by story-tellers fifty years ago. It’s naïve, and is an ignorant slur on Germans – normal people living in any way they can – as a duty to survival.
    This is “the human condition”.

    Come on Quentin – give your stories a bit more thought eh? Film making and story-telling is as much about understanding as it is about portrayal.

  • Perhaps the most anticipated motion picture of the year apart from the upcoming James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar, Inglourious Basterds is the new film by Quentin Tarantino. His name alone guarantees theater after theater of filled seats. After all, he is the Oscar and Cannes Palme d’Or winning writer-director of Pulp Fiction (1994), the undisputed masterpiece of 1990s popular cinema.

    That was only his second film. The first, Reservoir Dogs, released in 1992 in an explosive debut remains highly influential till this day. Between Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, he made two volumes of Kill Bill (2003, 2004) which established him as a rare filmmaker who could balance commercialism and auteurism in his works, and two other less well-known films in Jackie Brown (1997) and Death Proof (2007). Thus, his new WWII Nazi picture comes with high expectations, and Tarantino aces them effortlessly.

    Inglourious Basterds stars Brad Pitt as the leader of a band of Nazi-loathing Jewish-Americans who spread fear throughout the Third Reich by brutally killing Hitler’s men. They collaborate with a double agent (played by Diane Kruger) on a plot to assassinate Hitler and his top guard in a small theater screening a pro-Nazi film in a high-key event. This is, however, only one side to the story.

    The other side documents a young woman (played by Melanie Laurent) who owns that abovementioned cinema and has a plan of vengeance of her own after she survives a family massacre by the Nazis years ago. The link that connects the two narrative strands together is a ‘Jew-Hunter’ played by the immensely-talented Christoph Waltz (who won Best Actor at Cannes for this role) whose multilingual skills allow him to shine in the different language contexts during the film.

    No genuine fan goes to see a Tarantino film for the acting, though it is generally solid. Instead, they look out for its artistic merits, the layers of dialogue, its soundtrack accompaniment, and the ‘what-the-hell?’ factor of it all. Inglourious Basterds, true to Tarantino fashion, features a brilliantly-crafted narrative which is heavy on dialogue filled with sarcasm, black humor, and referential discourse over cinema and popular culture of that era. There are trademark long takes of ‘roundtable talks’ which create a high level of suspense, often ending up in violent and bloody shootouts.

    The art direction and costume design brings authenticity to the setting but the film is still a fictional WWII tale. This fictional aspect is further emphasized through the use of mostly Western music (in particular Ennio Morricone’s) which makes the film seems like an opera of various, unclassifiable styles. For the weak hearts, there are a few look-away moments including the carving of a man’s forehead with a sharp knife, the scalping of heads that reveal gross brain matter, and an unflinching exhibition of how it would look if you beat someone to a pulp using a bat. It would be sick to enjoy such violence, but Tarantino gleefully wants us to.

    Inglourious Basterds offers 150 minutes of pure cinema and a decent share of narrative twists. Told in five chapters, it is engrossing, and at times mind-blowing. There is not a dull moment in this masterpiece of screenwriting and directing. The critics are right in saying that “this is Tarantino’s best since Pulp Fiction”. A stunning return to form, Inglourious Basterds is a powerful reminder of the unique talents Tarantino possess. Admittedly, as with Kill Bill, Death Proof, and even Pulp Fiction, his latest picture makes quite no sense. But the enfant terrible of popular cinema shows us why nonsensical makes just perfect sense.

    GRADE: A+ (10/10 or 5 stars)
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