Great Movies: Inglourious Basterds

By Christian DiMartino

With Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight around the corner, it seems like a fitting time to review one of his masterpieces. Tarantino is one of the greatest filmmakers we have. He has a brilliant knack for dialogue and for what we, as filmgoers, want from an experience.

He also almost always wants his opinion heard, and a lot of what he says is kooky talk. He recently said that he was pissed off about the way Inglourious Basterds turned out at the Oscars. This, however, isn’t kooky talk. I am with him on that one. Inglourious Basterds was the best picture of 2009, without question. A smart, perfectly written and acted, thrilling, impeccably crafted, and jaw-droppingly badass film that never loses steam after two and a half hours.

The film follows a group of Jewish/American soldiers named The Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Their goal? End the Nazi regime, of course, and kill Hitler. In the process, they kill every Nazi they come across. The ones they don’t kill, they carve a Swastika into their foreheads, this way everyone will know who they are.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a French woman named Shoshanna Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent), a Jew in hiding (her family is murdered in the knockout opening scene of the film). She runs a movie theatre, and prefers to be left alone. One night, she meets a German soldier named Frederick Zoeller (Daniel Bruhl), and after he introduces her to the Nazis, they convince her to play this Nazi propaganda film called “Nations Pride.”

This seems like bad news, until it is announced that Hitler will also be attending. At this point, Shoshanna begins her scheme for revenge, and at this point The Basterds’ form a plan of attack as well. In the meanwhile, there is a Nazi named Hans Landa, nicknamed “The Jew Hunter” (Christoph Waltz), on the prowl. He is basically the Elliot Ness of Nazis, and with him around, it may or may not cause a serious threat to the whole operation.

The advertisements were certainly misleading, hence why I heard so many express their distaste. The film was marketed as some kick-ass action extravaganza. It is kick-ass, alright, but it is no action extravaganza. The action sequences, when they are there (particularly the climactic sequence) are marvelous.

But this is one of the more talkative Tarantino films, like Jackie Brown or Kill Bill Vol. 2. That could be a problem for some, especially when there are extended scenes of dialogue, with subtitles (those bloody subtitles!). I don’t see this as a weakness though, because Tarantino dialogue ain’t your normal dialogue. It’s better. His dialogue never feels forced. It all flows so naturally, and luckily he has such tremendous actors handing it. Greatness + Greatness = Even More Greatness.

This is possibly the smartest film he has made. I say that because I love the way the two revenge schemes come full circle and weave into each other. It works beautifully. It is also just a great looking film, whether it be the production design or Robert Richardson’s cinematography.

And now, we have reached the performances. Pitt is hilarious as Aldo, especially when he tries disguising his Italian accent. Laurent is also dynamite, and should’ve received an Oscar nomination. The appearances from Michael Fassbender, Til Schweiger, Mike Myers, Eli Roth, B.J. Novak, and pretty much everyone are unforgettable. However, they (well, Laurent is somewhere up there) are no match for Waltz.

I remember the first time I saw this film, I knew that Waltz was going places. I mean, he might’ve been a hit in Germany or something, but his performance had Oscar written all over it. I was right, as always (he went on to win another Oscar for Tarantino’s next masterpiece, Django Unchained).

This is his best performance, mostly because it is such a balancing act. Hans is absolutely terrifying, no matter what language he is speaking. He is also wildly unpredictable. But yet he is probably the most likable Nazi we will ever meet (unless we include dear Frederick Zoeller). He’s a hoot. No matter what Hans is doing, we can never take our eyes off of him, and I am glad that Waltz has lived up to his promise ever since this film.

So, yeah, I love Inglourious Basterds. I cannot find a single flaw in it. To top it off, I certainly agree with Tarantino on that whole Oscar thing. Congrats to Waltz on his much deserved win, but this film also should’ve went home with Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay, to name a few off the top of my head.

It’s one of the best films of the last decade.

(Oh yeah, it also features the best use of a David Bowie song, ever. Need I say more?)

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