"Inglourious Basterds" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
With an already very impressive filmography of six movies (five if you count both volumes of "Kill Bill" as one movie, which most people do), as well as three films he wrote, Quentin Tarantino decided he wants to make a period piece based off World War II, directly centered around the Nazis and their extermination of the Jews throughout their land. What he delivers is perhaps one of the best films in his filmography, with a terrifyingly fantastic performance by Christoph Waltz.
The film opens on a squad of Nazis going through the countryside, pulling up to a local dairy farmer, Perrier LaPadite's (Denis Ménochet) house. Col. Hans Landa (Waltz) exits the vehicle, and approaches the farmer and his family, questioning whether or not if he knows if there are any Jews around their part of the countryside. LaPadite informs that there were Jewish families that were his neighbors, but they have since been exterminated or fled from the Nazi regime over France. However, what LaPadite doesn't know is that Landa knows one of the Jewish families is being sheltered under the floorboards, which LaPadite reluctantly gives up to protect his own family. The Nazis brutally murder every single one of them under the floorboards, except one girl named Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), who is able to escape out of the back of the house.
This sets the film and the plot into motion. The film may be titled after Brad Pitt's gang of Nazi killers (which we'll get to in a moment), but I think the real story behind the movie is the conflict between Landa and Shosanna. Landa is tasked with murdering every Jewish person he can find, while Shosanna is wanting vengeance against Landa and the rest of the Nazi party for what they did to her family. Because of that, Landa and Shosanna dominate most of the runtime, as well as any scene they are both present in.
Fast forward three years, and Aldo Raine (Pitt) has assembled a group of skilled Nazi killers, called The Basterds. They go around the land that the Nazis have occupied and kill any and every Nazi that comes their way. However, they always let one go, to warn the others and the higher-ups about their ragtag team of killers. But, they won't let them get away without a permanent reminder of what they were and what they did, which prompts Raine to carve a Swastika in their foreheads.
When they hear about a German movie premier taking place, with higher-ups like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels attending the event, they come up with the plan to infiltrate the premier, and try to kill everyone inside to finally end the Second World War. They team up with the British Intelligence Agency, as well as German actress, Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), to work their way inside and finally bring an end to all the violence.
However, what they don't know is that the movie theater hosting the premiere is owned by Shosanna, who is now operating under a different name to avoid death. She encounters a young Nazi soldier one day, who goes by the name of Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), who is incredibly smitten with her upon their first interaction. So smitten, in fact, that he convinces Goebbels to hold the film premier at Shosanna's small theater. Since Shosanna doesn't know the Basterds, and vice versa, neither of them know each other's hatred towards the Germany political party, so Shosanna decides to come up with her own plan to take out all the officers in the Nazi Party.
The titular group of Nazi-hating men are great to watch. Alongside Pitt, we have Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, B.J. Novak, etc. Working with them as well is the likes of Michael Fassbendder and Mike Myers, who serve as the British officers working to kill the murderous political party. Every single actor present in this film did an incredible job of totally embodying their respective characters, especially Pitt. From his southern drawl to his mannerisms, you don't see Pitt in the film, but rather the character of Aldo Raine practically jumping off the screen.
However, Waltz is the best actor in this film, without a doubt. He gives a performance so terrifying, yet there is a sense of softness about him that is equally as terrifying. Unlike other soldiers in this movie, or even bad guys in other films, he doesn't try to make himself seem bigger than life or that he can take on any protagonist that goes his way. He instead acts like a smart and conniving antagonist, who works on intimidating any other character who comes his way. In my opinion, this is perhaps the best antagonist in any of Tarantino's films, and to be honest, one of the best antagonists in movie history.
I think it is really interesting (and smart) on how Tarantino rewrote history to his own version of what should happened. Watching the entire movie theater burn and Hitler being shot multiple times in the fact isn't just badass, it's joyous. It makes the viewer become filled with happiness and jubilation as they watch these horrible men get the same treatment that he instructed Landa to do to the poor Dreyfus family at the start of the film. As he went and instructed the Nazis to kill the Jewish people like dogs, he himself was shot down like an animal.
The film does a terrific job of balancing the multiple characters and storylines, and I think the movie does move at a very nice pace. It doesn't lose steam, nor does it bore the audience with wartime talk or confusing plot details. In fact, Tarantino has his characters talk about what they know best - cinema. I think this film perhaps has more talk about cinema and different movies than anything else in the film- well besides Nazis and how to kill Hitler. Tarantino basically made all of his characters walking, talking film encyclopedias, and I wouldn't have the characters any other way.
I think this is perhaps the best film since his 1994 masterpiece, "Pulp Fiction", but for all different reasons. This movie does a brilliant job of delivering everything that the viewer wants to see, and I think Tarantino does a great job of detailing the characters and circumstance in this time era. I honestly couldn't imagine any better way Tarantino could have made this film, and I applaud him for everything he did on the screen.