Inglourious Basterds (2009) (R)


















My opinion of "Inglourious Basterds" and what most people think are two different things. Sure, it's another piece in Quentin Tarantino's ever-expanding and ever-one-upping-itself body of work; but is there anything that really sets it apart? The obvious answer to this would be the Nazis, because that's an area of history that we certainly didn't predict Tarantino to tread upon. Then there's the multi-lingual effect which the director rarely did before, but it seems with "Inglourious Basterds" we've finally come to the point in Tarantino's career where he doesn't care about his audience anymore. That's not to say that he's distant or cold, but he makes movies that he himself would like and that is the key difference. Even with "Pulp Fiction" Tarantino made sure it was approachable and that, for lack of anything else, it had a happy ending. So is the case with "Kill Bill" or even "Jackie Brown"; but with "Inglourious Basterds" for the first time since "Reservoir Dogs" do we see the director not really care about what happens, who gets hurts, who dies, or how much shit hits the fan.
"Inglorious Basterds" begins in 1941 with the introduction to one of the most recent chilling bad guys to come to screen. Colonel Hans Landa of the SS (Christoph Waltz) is a man of peculiar abilities to find Jews. He has been assigned to find the last remaining group of Jewish escapees and kill them. This assignment, which Landa seems particularly giddy about, brings him to a dairy farm in France. His tactics seem to work, but one Jewish girl, Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) manages to slip through his fingers. Meanwhile, a group of rebels who call themselves "The Basterds"—led by Nazi-scalp hungry Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt)—are the self-appointed bringers of justice. They don't steal from the rich, but they do kill every single Nazi in sight which is a fair cry from Robin Hood.
The movie skips ahead a few years and soon we catch back up to Shosanna as she poses as a French citizen who owns a cinema. She is greeted with great cordiality by a recent German war hero, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) who seems smitten by her appearance and her love of cinema. He is so enamored by her that he goes out of his way to make sure that her cinema is promoted in the most interesting of ways.
But before it's all over, the Basterds, Landa, and Shosanna will have to face off and the Third Reich, as history tells us, will topple.
"Inglourious Basterds" is chilling and memorable for many reasons. It's the least comic-booky of Tarantino's work thus far, it's his most measured work, and it's completely and totally unafraid to make a mockery of history. Portraying real life figures like Hitler and Goebbels, Tarantino fashions "Inglourious Basterds" out of myth rather than historical mystery. 
Its time spent building suspense is one thing that I love about it, but the unashamed use of multiple languages is another. The film is shot in French, German, English, and some in Italian....the majority of this being French and German. A film that appeals to the intellectual and the inner revenge-seeking-Nazi-killing assassin, "Basterds" may be one of the insensitive of Tarantino's work, purposely so.
There are a few characters that seem redeemable who are also part of the German militia, but Tarantino rarely spares those characters mercy. Instead, he seems to believe as Traudl Junge did: your excuses are hollow because of the horrors you did.
Tarantino's story is one of vigilantism (which is something that I don't agree with, personally; but hey, movies are movies) and revenge. To the most empathetic of viewers, it may seem callous the way that life is dispatched in "Basterds"; but I find this much more revealing of Tarantino himself. He is so sincere with his hatred for Nazis that he crafts these misfits to take over his rage for him. It would seem that Tarantino is passionate about something else than film. It's the most intimate we see him other than "Jackie Brown". 
But "Basterds" is also a love song to cinema and if you know the propaganda directors, you'll find subtle references that pop up. Tarantino, naturally, did his homework. For its complexity, for its sensational cast and acting, for its style, for its audacity, "Basterds" is great.
And here is where I differ from most, because I don't just consider "Inglourious Basterds" to be one of Tarantino's best films, I consider it to be his best.









Score: ★★★★

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