Anthony's Film Review
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Even as Quentin Tarantino dives into revisionist history, he writes and directs an incredibly engaging film...
I never thought that I would ever utter the words "historical film" and "Quentin Tarantino" in the same sentence. Starting in 2009, it's something I had to get used to doing. With the World War II film Inglourious Basterds, director Quentin Tarantino steps into the territory of historical film. But let me also make this one very important note. He isn't changing his filmmaking style at all. He is still a director who likes to pay homage to other films, write a script in unconventional ways, present characters engaging in crisp and natural dialogue, and throw in stylized bloody violence. If you're looking for a serious historically accurate movie, don't watch Inglourious Basterds. But if you want cinematic entertainment that just happens to be set in World War II, you've come to the right place.
Of Tarantino's trademarks, the one that really makes this film strong is the dialogue that flows smoothly and still keeps the audience wondering what will happen next. Consider the movie's first scene (or rather, the first chapter) centering on Colonel Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, who arrives at a farm in the French countryside to look for Jews in the area. There is a long dialogue between Landa and a Frenchman in which the topic goes from milk to rats. This might seem bland, but it's actually quite fun to watch the scene, because the two men seem to be having a nice friendly chat. However, once Landa reveals his purpose for stopping by, the scene takes a chilling turn. That's another thing Tarantino is good at: pulling us in, then pulling the rug under our feet.
Besides the dialogue, the cast is also wonderful. I cannot think of a single actor or actress who is miscast. Christoph Waltz is just perfect as Landa. As for other major characters, there's Brad Pitt as Aldo Raine, who leads a squad of soldiers with one simple mission: kill any Nazis on sight. There's also Eli Roth as Donny Donowitz, a guy who is known as the Bear Jew and loves to kill Nazis with a baseball bat. Aside from the male characters, there is Melanie Laurent as a movie theater owner named Shosanna and Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark, a German woman who is spying for the British. As for Nazi characters besides Landa, the main one is Daniel Bruhl as Fredrick Zoller, who has a crush on Shosanna. And believe it or not, Adolf Hitler (yes, that same heartless dictator much of the world loves to hate) is a character in this movie, portrayed in a rather amusing performance by Martin Wuttke.
There's really one more great thing about this movie: the plot. The Nazis plan to host the premiere of a German war film called Nation's Pride and ask Shosanna to have the event at her movie theater. Shosanna agrees to it, without hinting that she has a secret agenda. As someone who had escaped death in the hands of Nazis, she sees this movie premiere as a perfect opportunity to get revenge. She plots to burn down the theater in a way that doesn't incriminate her or her projectionist. Meanwhile, Aldo and his men, called the Inglourious Basterds, have their own plan to attack the Nazis at that same theater. Ultimately, violent chaos ensues. If this convergence of three sets of characters doesn't sound all that creative, I don't know what does.
Even as I've identified the film's three strong points, the greatness of Inglourious Basterds still comes down to the dialogue. Whether it involves Germans playing a guessing game, a standoff in a bar, or Landa holding two men captive, the words spoken by the characters are just pleasing to hear. I should also note that the languages spoken in this film are primarily English, German, and French, with a sprinkle of Italian thrown in. Unless you know all four of these languages, the words spoken by the characters are actually pleasing to hear (if you understand the language) and read (if you're relying on subtitles for non-native languages). Therefore, I rank the characters at a close second and the plot at a close third.
When you put it all together, Inglourious Basterds is a film that starts out very good and gets very, VERY good by the end. The events leading up to the climax are just great to watch, and the climax itself is, well, a very entertaining bloodfest to say the least. Overall, this is definitely one of Tarantino's masterpieces, alongside movies like Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill: Volume 1. It's also a great stepping stone for the writer and director, being able to explore the new territory of alternate history while still giving us what he has always been known for. You could say that Quentin Tarantino is one glorious bastard for making such a bold move.
For more information about Inglourious Basterds, visit the Internet Movie Database.