"Inglourious Basterds": DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review (2009)

12/24/2009 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

“Inglourious Basterds”

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, 152 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

Quentin Tarantino’s best movie to date turns out to be his most recent movie, “Inglourious Basterds,” which is just out on DVD and Blu-ray disc.  The film clashes together history and fantasy, it intentionally echoes back to many of the World War II movies that came before it, and it uses them to inform it.

This is history boldly re-envisioned, with Tarantino, who also wrote the script, crafting a story based on Enzo Castellari’s 1978 movie, “The Inglorious Bastards.” How close are the two movies? Let’s just say they share the same title--though even there, the spellings are different. Other than that, we’re dealing with two different films, with Tarantino’s being the superior movie.

The film opens in 1941. We’re in Nazi-occupied France and the smoothly evil Nazi Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, superb in what should be an Academy Award-nominated performance), otherwise known as the “Jew Hunter,” has stopped by to question a farmer about whether he’s hiding Jews in his house. Turns out the man is, which leads to a tense game of cat and mouse (beautifully realized by Tarantino in an homage to the spaghetti western) that results in a horrific blast of bloodshed.

One girl escapes from the well of her family’s slaughter--Shosanna (Melanie Laurent)--who several years later comes to run a movie theater in Paris. It’s her ownership of the theater that proves critical to the film’s ending in ways that allow Shosanna the possibility for revenge. The moment she’s struck by the idea of it, she’s overcome by the rush of it and sets a plan into motion that will enact it.

Running alongside this story is the story of the Basterds themselves, a group of American Jews led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), whose point it is to “kill Nazis.” And they mean business, too, going so far as to scalp their victims alive and, in some cases, carve swastikas into their foreheads just so no one forgets who these people really are at their core. The director Eli Roth also is a Basterd, and as anyone who has seen the movie can attest, no one would want to be on the business end of his baseball bat.

Watching the Basterds do their grisly work, some will question whether Tarantino has made his Jewish heroes any better than his Nazis foes. They are ruthless killing machines stripped of humanity who have made their own monstrous laws. Has he gone too far by doing this? One could view it two ways. Tarantino’s flaw is that he didn’t consider any of this--he’s just in it for the sheer blunt of violence his inner 12-year-old always has favored. Or maybe he did consider it and the insight he offers is that when pressed, humans are capable of anything.

It’s up for debate.

Meanwhile, another thread tightens its noose around another genre--noir. Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) has made a movie about a Nazi war hero (Daniel Bruhl) that will have its premiere at Shosanna’s theater. Hitler will attend, as will many other undesirables, which means in one night, a bounty of Nazis will collect under one roof to celebrate their own war crimes. Thanks to a gorgeous German movie star (Diane Kruger) working the sidelines as a spy, the Allies are aware of this. So are the Basterds. And then there’s Shosanna, who has ideas of her own. Burn down the house with everyone caught inside, and the war would end.

But how to get there? Tarantino maneuvers and shifts, swinging the plot between the characters as the tension mounts, mostly thanks to the careful eye of Hans Landa, who also is attending the event and senses that something is going down. Not that he’s about to allow that to happen. And not that you’re about to be bored in the process.

Grade: A-

Watch the trailer for "Inglourious Basterds" here:

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