Inglourious Basterds (2009) * Top Pick *


 Quentin's Hot New Look
Quentin's Hot New Look

Genre: Action War Drama... Western (USA, Germany)

Starring: Brad Pitt (Se7enKalifornia), Christoph Waltz

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino (Grindhouse • Reservoir Dogs)

Overview: A team of American Jews are sent on a terror mission. A Jewish woman sets her sights on sabotage. Somewhere between them, the Nazis take a trip to the movies. 

Feel free to click here to skip the spoiler bit at the beginning.

In my experience, WWII films that have missions in which Hitler himself becomes a potential target, the story always leans to either the historic accuracy side of the scale, as in Downfall where Hitler takes his own life or towards the more believable truth of history, namely never getting the chance of assassinating said Fuhrer. Simple twists like a change of plans, or Hitler as an unlikely secondary objective serve to give the characters an added touch of drive, yet knowing history, we as the viewer are quite aware of how that part of the story will end. What Quentin Tarantino did with Operation Kino was brilliant. In his own version of a mission that might add Hitler himself to the bodycount, Quentin fills a targeted theatre with high ranking Nazis, including men whose deaths could instantly end the war, such as Goebbels and Göring. As a viewer, the question of "Will they succeed?" was not as compelling as "How will Hitler escape and how many more shall go with him?" To see that final moment of Operation Kino unfold as it did, with all two and a half plans a perfect success, as well as watching an up close and graphic display of Hitler getting plugged over and over with machine gun fire… well kiddies, that shattered any expected outcome that I had of Inglourious Basterds. For some time I even thought to myself, "Wait, are you even allowed to kill Hitler?" The answer comes as clearly as the answer to Quentin's other inglourious monkey-wrench, "Are you allowed to make a Western out of a War movie?" The only question left in my mind is this: Did Tarantino intentionally break the fourth wall that poetically with his metaphor?

Either way, the fact of the matter is that Quentin did what many other filmmakers could not do: kill Hitler with film.

Edge of your seat double-think

The opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is primarily intense dialogue and close-ups of men sitting in close quarters dripping pleasantries with the grand subtext of foxes circling a chicken coop. I quickly grew fearful of whether Quentin had written a film with so much irrelevant dialogue that he was only talking to himself, as he had done in the overdrawn Kill Bill 2. Quickly those fears were assuaged, and instead I looked forward to scenes filled with ardent questioning taking place in claustrophobic rooms. This is what makes Inglourious Basterds so worthy, and without a doubt one of Tarantino's best scripts. Yes the streak of Quentin is present, with such off-putting moments as introducing a character in glorious musical fanfare while their name fills the screen in 70s porn font, but so many scenes show instead a poignancy of drama where the Nazis are not seen as fumbling idiots as they are in so many films, but as brave, intelligent and noble, as genuine foes to be feared, and their characterization in Inglorious Basterds is done in such a way that makes the Americans the ones in the lurch, fighting against a superior enemy, blunt as they are. I would even go as far as saying that the writing in Inglourious Basterds shows that Tarantino has evolved from the common in-your-face gangster-gore movies into bloody-yet-fun subtext-rich character studies with dramatic plots. In short, Tarantino's latest will certainly impress his fan base, and may very well create a few new ones.

Le French... how you sey... Kaboom
Le French... how you sey... Kaboom

When Tarantino wrote his script for Inglourious Basterds, was he making constant inside jokes to the few cinephiles who'd get him, or was he genuinely thinking of creating a setting that had people talking, very naturally, about the pop culture that was relevant to them in 1944? Introducing Emil Jannings and screening a film of G.W. Pabst's may certainly be considered innocuous and culturally relevant for the era, however, film talk in Inglourious Basterds does submerge itself in the obscure. One scene compares Goebbels to Selznick, another shows Germans playing a game of Who Am I?, where one card reads Pola Negri. All this may seem like a deep immersion into the world of issues facing the cinema of occupied France in 1944, but Tarantino gives away his overzealous need to share his filmic knowledge of the era without remaining true to the other great cultural motivator, music. In fact Quentin goes so far to stray from it as to create a musical no-man's-land by having scenes riddled with modern music. Ah yes but there's the rub. Tarantino goes all out in making another display of his filmic appreciation, since the soundtrack itself is entirely comprised of movie music. I still can't decide if it adds or detracts…

"I'm going to find a place that actually resembles, in one way or another, the Spanish locales they had in spaghetti westerns a no man's land. With American soldiers and French peasants and the French resistance and Nazi occupiers, it was kind of a no man's land. That will really be my spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography. But the thing is, I won't be period specific about the movie. I'm not just gonna play a lot of Édith Piaf and Andrews Sisters. I can have rap, and I can do whatever I want. It's about filling in the viscera." - Quentin Tarantino

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 10 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 90% (Trouly Glourious)

So for those of you who hope to get a leg up on the discussions had by these characters, I suggest some quick browsing of some of the names referenced in Inglorious Basterds. Here's a quick overview for you.

Pola Negri   |   Emil Jannings   |   David O. Selznick

Distinguished, but still likes a rousing game of Biiiiingo!
Distinguished, but still likes a rousing game of Biiiiingo!

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