#43. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger
I still remember my first viewing of Inglourious Basterds like it was yesterday, everything about the theatrical experience was just so perfect. To this day I still feel that same feeling everytime I see, read about, or think about Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 film. The World War II epic sees a plot to assassinate a theatre full of Nazi leaders – including Adolf Hitler – by an elite group of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). Unbeknownst to them, the theatre owner Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) has plans for her own revenge against the Nazi officials, creating the perfect storm of violence and vengeance. Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt my favorite Quentin Tarantino film, simply because it’s everything I love about the director in one highly entertaining movie. It’s violent, features an ensemble cast loaded with great actors in roles outside of their usual comfort zone, and deadly serious with great emotional weight in moments. Basterds is something only a bold, proven filmmaker the likes of Tarantino would be able to see through to the end – it’s bizarre, revisionist, violent, and confrontational in the way that many of his films are. Tarantino’s portrait of Nazi-occupied Paris is incredible in its tone and atmosphere – SS patrols, guards, resistance fighters, and spies are on the mind of viewers at all times. The tone creates a suspenseful and intriguing atmosphere that sticks with the film to the very end. In classic Tarantino fashion, the writer-director infuses the film with a very upfront sense of humor and self-awareness, especially with elements like Eli Roth’s “Bear Jew”, Christoph Waltz’s “That’s a BINGO” moment, and the use of modern songs like David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”. The fact that Basterds earned universal critical acclaim and awards recognition is a testament to the talents of the writer-director, as well as to its cast. Speaking of its cast, Inglourious Basterds introduced American audiences to the talent of Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, whose Colonel Hans Landa was one of the most intelligent and sinister villains in modern film history. Waltz picked up a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, and would team up again with Tarantino in 2012’s Django Unchained. Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine is another highlight of Inglourious Basterds, serving as the film’s central protagonist but also as its occasional comedic relief. Raine’s atrocious Italian accent is one of my favorite moments in the movie, perfectly displaying Pitt’s penchant for absurd comedy. The third acting highlight in Basterds is the performance of Shosanna by Melanie Laurent, who transforms from a terrified young girl living in fear of persecution, to a strong, independent, vengeful force looking to single-handedly take down the Nazi regime. While Inglourious Basterds may not be for everybody due to its length, revisionist historical approach, use of multiple languages, or simply due to its tone, there’s no denying the craft at work here. The film is one of the most suspenseful, atmospheric, entertaining, and rewarding movie experiences I’ve ever had, and may very well be Quentin Tarantino’s very best work.