A war movie about war and movies – Inglourious Basterds review

Inglourious Basterds – Starring Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Rated MA. By Simon Miraudo.

Does Inglourious Basterds attempt to erase every preconceived notion of wartime bravery? Does it tear page after page from the history books (like so many Nazi scalps) and hurl them into the fireplace with reckless abandon? Does it course its way through your veins, pumping venom and bile into your heart and leave you begging for more? Yes, yes, gloriously yes! Quentin Tarantino has delivered the most satisfyingly delicious picture of his career. It is a rip-snorting revenge tale, a throwback to the spaghetti-western, an exercise in extreme-conversation and a love-letter to cinema. Consider this review my love-letter to Tarantino.

Inglourious Basterds is the director’s most adult film to date. It’s deliberately paced and features some of the meatiest and most thrilling dialogue of his impressive filmography so-far. Each and every one of the films numerous characters are unquestionably memorable, whether they are lovable or detestable or desirable. Here is a master filmmaker taking complete control of his craft and fine tuning every last detail to deliver the best possible final product. Even the spelling of the film’s title has been ingeniously altered. Of course, Inglourious Basterds is the correct spelling in the Wonderful World of Quentin, where Nazis yak about Apple Strudels, American soldiers collect scalps like baseball cards and the fate of the world rests in the hands of a couple of movie buffs. So much to love, yet so little room to write!

So, once upon a time: Those titular Basterds are tearing up Nazi-occupied France by killing and scalping as many members of the Third Reich as they can get their hands on. The ragtag group is led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and includes a baseball-bat-wielding maniac nicknamed The Bear Jew (Eli Roth) as well as German-born murderer Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger). Obviously, The Fuhrer is none too pleased with the exploits of these Yankees. Thank goodness then for Nazis like Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), a genuine war-hero who took out almost 300 Allies on his own. Propaganda minister Goebbels himself has directed a film about Zoller’s heroics and plans to screen it for the entire German army high command. The entire German high command packed into a cinema for one night only? Send in The Basterds!

In my synopsis I haven’t even mentioned the film’s two main characters: Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young French-Jewish woman who is hiding in plain-sight as the owner of the aforementioned cinema; and Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a charming and unsettling Nazi detective nicknamed The Jew Hunter (for reasons that surely do not need to be explained). Although many will walk into the cinema to see Brad Pitt kicking Nazi butt, everyone will leave talking about Shoshanna and Hans. Christoph Waltz will also win the Best Supporting Actor at next year’s Oscar ceremony. Trust me on this one.

You’ll be glad to know that I have barely scratched the surface of Tarantino’s war flick. No matter how many ways I try and describe the plot to you, there is nothing quite like watching the film unfold in front of you. Tarantino is in no rush to get to the final showdown between The Heroes and The Villains. He spreads it out over five gorgeous chapters that slowly unveil the major players and their motivations. A couple of key scenes run close to twenty minutes in length, which is something you never see. One notable sequence begins with drunken joy and ends with bloodshed. In between, we get to enjoy some of Tarantino’s finest work as characters teeter between friendly conversation and murderous rage. Could any other director pull this off? He’s obviously aided by a stunning cast who do not disappoint. Even Pitt’s relatively one-note Lieutenant manages to evolve into a hilarious comic foil, even if he does play second fiddle to the stunning Christoph Waltz.

I’d be lying if I said that Inglourious Basterds has a lot to say. It does not try and explore the themes of cruelty during wartime; nor do The Basterds act as an extended metaphor for something in today’s society. This is the kind of picture that says more about its filmmaker than it does its subject. Much like Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell, here we have a director compiling his favourite elements of cinema and turning it into this unique beast that is still undeniably their own. Tarantino’s filmmaking is (and has always been) breathtaking, but there is something about seeing him work with all this World War 2 iconography that is completely exhilarating. It opens up a whole world of possibility – Tarantino could literally delve into the depths of history and play with anything he wants to. Am I being too hyperbolic? Inglourious Basterds demands it. Films like these are rare and we have to grab onto them whenever we get the chance.


Check out my other reviews here.

2 Responses to “A war movie about war and movies – Inglourious Basterds review”

  1. I would rather watch the new moon then anything by Tarentino.The man is overrated.

  2. Totally agree with your review Simon. Inglourious is not only Tarantino's best movie, but one of the best movies ever made by anyone – period.Amazing action, stunning acting by all of the cast (safe bet on the Supporting Oscar nod) and a superb & original story. Easily a 5/5.AQ.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: