Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent


It looks like Tarantino finally wants to start making real films now. This is not the silly amalgamation of quirky characters typical of his previous work. Tarantino has crafted something more meaningful.

This film has not one, but two real stories with real drama. From the first scene on the dairy farm to the meeting in the basement to the cinema finale, both stories are filled with real suspense and emotion. I wonder if the stories are large enough to have been two separate movies. Wouldn’t it be cool if this is how the war actually ended?

Pitt (Raine) takes the quirkiness dangerously close to silliness, but everyone else keeps the film marvelously grounded. Waltz (Landa) plays one of the most intriguing, gripping, and fascinating characters I have seen in years. His performance is exquisite, definitely Oscar-worthy. Can the Academy bring itself to give one of Tarantino’s films an Oscar? Laurent (Shosanna), who looks suspiciously like Rosanna Arquette, is also wonderful, although I can’t help but think that someone a little more attractive and a little less moley would have made us (and perhaps guys more than girls) a little more attached to her and her story. Even Brühl (Zoller) is fantastic. Did Tarantino really coax these performances out of the actors, or did he just get lucky?

If I have any complaint, it’s that I would have liked to see some of the secondary characters developed a bit more. Tarantino took his time with Shosanna and Landa, but another scene or two featuring Stiglitz and Donowitz would have rounded out the ensemble, giving them a bit more depth and definitely providing us with more easy laughs.

One of Tarantino’s qualities is that he never pulls any punches, and Inglourious Basterds is no exception. There is a certain joy that comes from seeing a bad person getting abused or mutilated or pounded by a baseball bat in a very graphic way. Killing Nazis is easy thrills, for sure. But give Tarantino credit for being one of the first filmmakers to really glorify it.

Some questions. Why didn’t the Basterds hesitate when the theater caught on fire? It wasn’t part of their own plan, and they had no knowledge of Shosanna’s plan. It didn’t even strike them as odd. And why the title? With two distinct stories, why does only one of them get top billing?

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