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Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds is director Quentin Tarantino’s first foray into the World War II genre of film. Told in five chapters, the story follows Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his group of Jewish-American Nazi hunters as they spread fear and terror throughout German-occupied France, killing and scalping Nazis. Walking into Basterds, I expected to see what was shown in the trailers leading up to the film: two-plus hours of Brad Pitt, Eli Roth and that guy from The Office blowing away hundreds of Nazis. And what I got, like most Tarantino films, was something so much better. Tarantino took the premise of a 1970s WWII B-movie about a group of soldiers massacring the Third Reich and made a smart, dialogue-driven, revenge film that everyone can enjoy.

Although this film has been marketed as a non-stop action thrill ride, most of the action in the movie is in the trailer. Altogether, less than 20 minutes of the 153-minute run time of the film is any kind of action. What the film lacks in shootouts and explosions is made up for in Tarantino’s incredible dialogue—one of the director's strong suits ever since Reservoir Dogs. There are countless scenes that begin with what appears to be boring and meaningless drivel that slowly churns its way into becoming carefully crafted attacks, foreshadowing the violent action scenes to come. Even the scenes of subtitled dialogue, which may annoy some, seem to do more damage than any of the mindless killing and depravity shown by the Basterds toward their victims.

All five chapters of the film act as separate set pieces, with a tone completely their own, going back and forth between Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a theater owner who narrowly escapes the clutches of the SS, and the title characters led by “Aldo the Apache” as their paths grow closer and closer together. The story slowly builds a head of steam that grows scene by scene until, by the end of the film, it explodes with unabashed delight as to make one feel bad that they feel so good about how Tarantino’s war ends.

Acting-wise, Christoph Waltz is easily the highlight of the film. The amount of charm he is able to pull off as SS Col. Hans Landa is eerily reminiscent to Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List. From the first moments of the film, he is shown as a man who is not only good at what he does, but has a passion for it. He is the most dangerous kind of person: He knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that what he’s doing is right and just.

One thing I didn’t expect from this film was Tarantino using the war to objectify his love and passion for cinema. It felt kind of forced at first, but his message of the subjectivity of film, whether it’s propaganda against an oppressed people or showing a different view of what we think is right and just, catalyzes each view of conflict perfectly in this film. I also never thought I’d say this, but Inglourious Basterds reminded me more of Cinema Paradiso than anything else—just with more guns.

Inglorious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to WWII, the way he thinks it should have been. If only the pivotal battles of the war were begun with long-winded monologues of why we are better than them, only to be followed by over-the-top acts of violence and depravity—and when it’s all over, countries are left to pick up the pieces of their broken city walls and the stacked bodies of their soldiers. If only the ends justified the means. In Tarantino's World War II, they always do.


Carrie Owings


Carrie Owings reviewed…

Had many students who went and saw it, I simply can't. No matter how clever the dialogue or premise of revenge against a great evil, can't get past the violence or desensitizing of my Spirit!



Zac reviewed…

I think this is a very accurate review, and a very clever film. I think the interesting thing to note is that while being centered on revenge against a particular evil (and in our sinful human nature, I think we find a certain pleasure or satisfaction in seeing blatant evil met with harsh, unforgiving justice), I felt that it builds a strong case against revenge. Through the theater scene and other moments in the movie, the gratuitous massacre of human life on both sides of the spectrum- the Nazis and the Jews- we understand that a person is a person, German or Jew. Life is life, and God loves all. Even the worst.

I don't know what is to be said about Tarantino's motive for making the film, whether this is at best an exercise in film or points toward the bigger issues of war, violence, and revenge. It's certainly not for the weak of heart or stomach, but to dismiss this film as simply about revenge, or simply the depiction of graphic violence for the sake of a laugh or for any other trivial matter, would be a mistake. Simply, you wouldn't know what you're missing.

Ian Clarke


Ian Clarke reviewed…

Saw it with my son because he was bound to go and I didn't want him going without me. Heavily gratuitous. Comic book fictionalizing that does little credit to those who participated in the war and who gave their lives, or who survived, changed forever. Trivializes the sacrifice of those who fought on between the time of the story-book assassinations ('43?) that "ended" the war and the real blood that was shed up to May of 1945.

In all of this there were some really fine performances. Brad Pitt not so much. He seems best suited to romantic comedies, since anything deeper stretches his talent beyond its capacity. Although one could say that perhaps in recognizing that the film was a farce, it was his performance that matched it and made it truly farcical. This was the context for the scalpings, the beatings, and the burnings. So it was fairly easy to discount the violence with the possibile exception of the elevated scene of the "blood" filled mannequin head being beaten to a pulp. The language got equally gratuitous in parts, which is all part of the un-civil society into which we have degenerated. Nowhere is this more evident than in the feature film industry. I prefer to watch them at home where I can edit the language and concentrate on the story, the drama, or the humour. I appreciated the really timely article on swearing in Christian culture in Relevant today, and the follow-up comments.



Krempel reviewed…

so...any depiction of a real life event must strive for total realism?

Ian Clarke


Ian Clarke reviewed…

No, not necessarily; but real life that is of such "pith and moment", as that so heavily caricaturized by this film, should not be treated as farce.

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