Inglourious Basterds: my review is almost as long as the movie!

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This review contains spoilers.

It’s funny, but just a few moments before seeing a midnight show of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS at the Cinerama Dome, the subject of “name your favorite Tarantino movie” came up at our table in the Arclight bar. Everyone had a different one. For some it’s PULP FICTION, while others prefer KILL BILL. My favorite was still the brilliant RESERVOIR DOGS (well for another 2 and a half hours it would be), but I’m getting ahead of myself. The conclusion I came to from this conversation was that Quentin Tarantino can make a bank heist film, a gangster film, a blaxsploitation film, a revenge film, a slasher movie and a WW II film and the result is going to always be the same. Regardless of the genre, it’s gonna be a Quentin Tarantino movie and it’s not going to be predictable.

I think I first heard about this movie, when it was being referred to as GLORIOUS BASTARDS, in an Ain’t It Cool News posting almost 10 years ago. QT said he was working on a script that was going to be a WWII movie in the spirit of THE DIRTY DOZEN. He ended up doing KILL BILL instead, but the project was always rumored to be his next. Over the years it has taken on an almost “legendary” status as a movie that the vast geek community has been looking forward to with great anticipation. I remembered reading once that he was going to make it into three separate films, because he had written so mammoth an epic. It wasn’t long after GRINDHOUSE was released that the rumors surfaced again. This time it was called INGLORIOUS BASTARDS and the reports had us believe initially that it was a remake of the same titled film by legendary Italian filmmaker ENZO G. CASTELLARI and who knows, maybe it was. Maybe, but I doubt it because Tarantino can’t make anything that doesn’t exist in HIS universe and under HIS rules. When I read that it was only “inspired” by the CASTELLARI film and was now called INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, I knew we were gonna see something much more unique than we could expect and I was correct.

Brad Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine and he wants his scalps.

Brad Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine and he wants his scalps.

The Cinerama Dome was packed for the midnight show on Thursday night and I was very anxious for the film to start. I knew absolutely nothing about the plot details (even though I’ve had the entire script downloaded on my hard drive for almost a year now), which is my preferred way of seeing all movies, especially a Tarantino movie. I’ve learned from the first time I saw RESERVOIR DOGS that the joy that comes from viewing his movies are all the great “surprises” you always receive. His films are like Christmas and only an impatient lunkhead ruins the surprise of knowing what they’re getting for Christmas. Old Santa Claus himself was in the house that night as Quentin Tarantino took the Dome stage to introduce the film and was greeted with an impromptu standing ovation from the entire crowd. Now, I’ve been in the Dome on midnight showings where the director’s intro’d the movie before. Even Michael Bay got an enthusiastic round of applause at the TRANSFORMERS 2 screening, but I’ve never seen that savvy Hollywood crowd give it up so hard as for QT. Fuck the guys earned it already and BASTERDS only drives it home further. Kinda like the Bear Jew cracking a Nazi’s skull!

Christoph Waltz is the "jew hunter", Col. Hans Landa.

Christoph Waltz is the "jew hunter", Col. Hans Landa.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS begins with an homage to the legendary Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and anyone familiar with the opening of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY will be in geek heaven. Although we are in nazi-occupied France in 1941, the scene is straight-up spaghetti western including the “borrowed” Ennio Morricone music that dominates most of the soundtrack. In this opening we meet the most charismatic personification of pure evil I’ve ever seen in a “movie” villian, Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz in a performance that deserves all the praise it’s getting) a.k.a. the “jew” hunter. The ‘cat and mouse’ way he verbally plays with a helpless French dairy farmer that is hiding a jewish family under their very feet is brilliantly written and performed. Like many opening scenes in a QT movie, this one sets up two major characters who will play a larger role in the events to come. And so ends Chapter One…

The Basterds love carving themselves a swastika on a Nazi forehead or two.

The Basterds love carving themselves a swastika on a Nazi forehead or two.

In Chapter Two we meet the “Inglourious Basterds”, a covert squad of eight jewish-american soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), an ex-moonshine runner from the hills of Tennessee who just so happens to have a little Apache blood in his veins for added color. They’ve been dropped behind enemy lines in France to collect as many Nazi scalps as they can and they all really enjoy their work. Like “The Bear Jew” (Eli Roth joyously hamming it up with a 40’s era Boston accent) who loves working on his batting average by cracking open a Nazi skull or two. But my favorite Basterd is the German born Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) who is “inducted” into the squad for his proficiency in murdering SS officers and is given his own ‘blaxsploitation’ styled intro. Even Hitler knows of their methods and how they “mark” their only survivors with a swastika carved on to their foreheads. This stuff is all awesome and does a great job of establishing the “men” on the mission. But I would soon discover that INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is a movie that’s more about the “mission” itself and the many people that play a part in it all…

Melanie Laurent is Shosanna Dreyfus, a movie theatre owner in Paris with a score to settle.

Melanie Laurent is Shosanna Dreyfus, a movie theatre owner in Paris with a score to settle.

The third chapter introduces us to a Parisian cinema owner named Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who is ‘secretly’ the lone jewish survivor of Col. Landa’s cruelty from the film’s opening. She has found herself in a position where she can extract vengeance on the people responsible for murdering her family. A Nazi war hero named Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) is smitten with her and arranges for the premiere of a new German film made about his exploits at her cinema. All the highest ranking officers of the Third Reich will be in attendance to watch the film, including none other than Hitler, himself. She agrees to host the event with the intention of burning all the Nazi’s to death, by torching the theatre and the highly flammable 35mm “nitrate” film collection it holds. But will the appearance of Col. Landa throw off the plan if he recognizes her…

The fourth chapter is about the formation and execution of “Operation Kino”, an Allied Forces mission that involves the blowing up of the cinema hosting the Nazi premiere in Paris. Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is sent by the OSS into France where he is to rendezvous with the Basterds and meet up with Bridget Von Hammersmark, a double agent who also happens to be a famous German starlet. The meeting is held in the basement of a French pub and is one of the most tense sequences in the film, where they are interrogated by a Gestapo officer with a keen ear for accents. The scene gets messy, but the Basterds prevail and get a little closer to their main goal: blow up the theatre with Hitler in it…

Chapter five is all about the night of the premiere and the mission being carried out. There’s a montage set to a David Bowie song from the movie CAT PEOPLE and moments that reminded me of CARRIE, CINEMA PARADISO and the Italian horror film DEMONS. It is an incredibly gonzo sequence and Tarantino brings it all together for a climax that is probably the most satisfying I’ve ever seen. What’s not to love about a WWII film that features Adolf Hitler’s face being ripped apart by sub machine gun fire?

Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is the most insanely violent, brazen and hilarious war movie ever made and is his most accomplished and well written film to date, in my opinion. This is not the “men on a mission” movie we were led to believe it would be, but I think that it is to the film’s benefit. We get to meet the Basterds and see them in action, but most of the team are given no screen time at all. That’s because INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is not about the “men” so much as it’s about the “mission” and all the people and events that lead to it’s conclusion. QT has proven once again that he can tackle any genre, deconstruct it and re-imagine it, all in a way we’ve never seen before and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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One Response to “Inglourious Basterds: my review is almost as long as the movie!”

  1. CMrok93 Says:

    I agree, great flick. One of the best of 09. I was freaking laughing my ass off the entire time! Plus, there was some serious intense scenes: i.e. opening and the tavern basement. Seeing Hitler’s face get chewed up by a Tommy gun was pretty sick too. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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