In the first year of the German occupation of France, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema. Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish American soldiers to perform swift, shocking acts of retribution. Later known to their enemy as "the basterds," Raine's squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich. Fates converge at the Paris cinema, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own.
Review by Louise Keller:
Not for the fainthearted, Quentin Tarantino's re-imagining of the 1978 Italian film, with an intentionally misspelt title, is a bold, gory and glorious cinematic fest liberally doused with humour, satire and entertainment value. It begins with 'Once Upon a Time' and ends with a Tarantino-esque view of how victory over the Nazis might have been. While Brad Pitt's name towers over the substantially long Mission Impossible tale, it is in fact Austrian-born Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa, the Jew Hunter who steals the film, with a beautifully measured, slightly hysterical performance that is all at once comical and devastating.
The first thing to notice about the film is its tone. The music gives a clue, when it shuffles the spaghetti western with Beethoven's Fur Elyse. Incongruous indeed. But music is not the only thing. Genre too is given the full shuffle. Drama, horror-fest, romance, spy thriller and comedy with tinges of slapstick are lovingly and theatrically style-slapped into shape by the fearless Tarantino, whose child-like enthusiasm infused with graphic violence, is easily imagined. It could be considered a conceit of the largest proportions to suggest that cinema per se could destroy Hitler and the SS, but Tarantino's vision is gallant and brilliant.
Language is also a hybrid with subtitles translating the mainstay of German and French spoken. Oh yes, there is a scene in which Pitt's Lieutenant Aldo Raine (from the deep South) and his two colleagues pretend to be Italian, and Aldo (who is allegedly the best speaking Italian of the three) spits out a cringe-worthy attempt at Arrivederci. Aldo heads up the Basterds, an intrepid Nazi hunter who demands Nazi scalps (literally) from his followers. Structured into five chapters, the story begins in 1941 on a dairy farm in Nazi-occupied France and takes us on a journey in which we meet a German Officer turned actor (Daniel Brühl), who believes he is more than his uniform, a cinema owner (Mélanie Laurent, reminiscent of Uma Thurman) intent on revenge, a German actress with a secret affiliation (Diane Kruger), Til Schweiger as the feared Nazi-killer and Michael Fassbender as a former film critic. Watch out for Rod Taylor's cameo as cigar-chomping Winston Churchill and Mike Myers as a carefully made-over General.
Tarantino takes risks and they all pay off. There are umpteen memorable moments in this often shocking entertainment that confronts the horrors of WWII head on coupled with the imaginative flair you might expect. It is definitely not for everyone, but there are plenty who will thrive on the trip.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Be prepared for unsettling shifts in pace and tone, be prepared to be shocked and amused, to laugh and guffaw (for various reasons) and to be always surprised in this comic fantasy which is cheeky enough to reinvent history - and has audiences clapping as it does so. It's a film that can launch a thousand conversations with "what about the scene when..."
But then in Tarantino's cinema world, anything goes as long as it serves the gods of cinema by entertaining an audience. He doesn't do things he doesn't thoroughly enjoy and he doesn't make films to pander to anything but our simplest, most used instincts. Inglourious Basterds was triggered by the 1978 original, a rather enjoyable B movie by Italian filmmaker Enzo G. Castellari - but it has morphed into a Tarantino creature all its own. No longer a B movie (they don't make those anymore), this is Agrade stuff, with Brad Pitt leading a glourious cast into World War II battle. Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a Southern boy with his own demonic style and a wicked pact with the authorities to hunt down and kill Nazis - in gruesome fashion, so the word spreads like mists of terror across the Third Reich.
Across the aisle from him is Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), whose sole mission is to find Jews anywhere in France. He is a multilingual homing device with charm to spare and a quiet determination. He is also morally bankrupt. It's a great teaming, contrasting in every way from personality to background. Both actors relish the task and I think Waltz comes off the more memorable, with a slam bang performance perfectly judged to fit into the film's overall tone.
There are two hugely entertaining cameos - in the same scene: Mike Myers plays a British Army General while Rod Taylor does Churchill. Both play to Tarantino's sense of humour and exploitation genre sensibilities. The women are also brilliant, with Diane Kruger playing it straight as the German actress turned traitor, and the lovely Melanie Laurent a serene presence as the surviving daughter of a Jewish family who plots revenge.
Tarantino uses some surprising music cues, applied with the same bravado that infests the entire film, lunging suddenly from calm to violence. The result is a film that seems not to take itself too seriously yet recognises that the subject matter is serious. Tarantino uses restraint to keep us on edge - notably not with action, but with the tension that is built by anticipation; we can tell something's going to go bust, but don't know when or what or how. And the process is gripping. It starts and ends like that, and there are a couple of sequences in the middle, too. The basterd's done it again.
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INGLORIOUS BASTARDS DVD (1978)
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (MA)
CAST: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Eli Roth, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Mike Myers, Rod Taylor, Bo Svenson, Enzo G. Castellari, Maggie Cheung, Cloris Leachman
PRODUCER: Lawrence Bender
DIRECTOR: Quentin Tarantino
SCRIPT: Quentin Tarantino
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson
EDITOR: Sally Menke
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Wasco
RUNNING TIME: 152 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 20, 2009