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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Featured Reviewer: BRUCE KIRKLAND - Sun Media

Brad Pitt ... Lt. Aldo Raine

Mélanie Laurent ... Shosanna Dreyfus

Christoph Waltz ... Col. Hans Landa

Eli Roth ... Sgt. Donny Donowitz

Michael Fassbender ... Lt. Archie Hicox

Diane Kruger ... Bridget von Hammersmark

Daniel Brühl ... Pvt Fredrick Zoller

Til Schweiger ... Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz

Gedeon Burkhard ... Cpl. Wilhelm Wicki

Jacky Ido ... Marcel

B.J. Novak ... Pfc. Smithson Utivich

Omar Doom ... Pfc. Omar Ulmer

August Diehl ... Major Dieter Hellstrom

Denis Menochet ... Perrier LaPadite

Sylvester Groth ... Joseph Goebbels

Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds Poster
24 in. x 36 in.
Buy at

Framed   Mounted

Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds Poster
24 in. x 36 in.
Buy at

Framed   Mounted

Synopsis: *** Serious spoiler alert ***

The main theme of the film is revenge. The film is set in an alternate history of the Second World War in which the entire top leadership of Nazi Germany, namely Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Bormann attend a film premiere in Paris celebrating the exploits of a German sniper who had managed to kill 300 American soldiers in Italy. Most of the film's timeframe is set in early June 1944, after the D-Day landings but before the liberation of Paris.

The film tracks the separate attempts to kill Hitler by two disparate forces, one being the "Basterds", a motley crew of Jewish American soldiers out for revenge against the Nazis. The Basterds have a modus operandi whereby each man must cut off the scalp of a dead Nazi soldier, with orders to get 100 scalps each. The Basterds allow one German soldier to survive each incident so as to spread the news of the terror of their attacks. However, the Basterds carve a swastika into the forehead of that German. The other force concerns Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), the only survivor of a Jewish family killed by the Jew Hunter, who plots her own revenge on the Nazis. The Basterds and Shosanna remain unaware of each other throughout the film.

The film opens in 1941 with Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) of the Waffen-SS, proudly known as the "Jew Hunter", interrogating Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), a French dairy farmer, over rumours that he had been hiding a Jewish family. Landa manages to break down LaPadite and locates the hiding place of the Jews underneath the floorboards. He orders his soldiers to fire into the floorboards, killing all but the teenage Shosanna.

Four years later, by 1944, Shosanna has assumed the identity of "Emmanuelle Mimieux". How she manages to do so is not revealed. She has also become the proprietress of a cinema, which is chosen by Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a spotlight-hungry sniper-turned-actor whose exploits are celebrated in the Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (A Nation's Pride), as the setting for the film premiere. He is attracted to Shosanna and convinces Goebbels to hold the premiere in her cinema. Shosanna does not reciprocate Zoller's feelings.

Shosanna realizes that the presence of so many high ranking Nazi officials and officers provides an excellent opportunity for revenge. She resolves to burn down her cinema using the massive quantities of flammable nitrate film in her storage rooms during the premiere and makes a fourth reel in which she tells the Nazis present of her Jewish identity and revenge.

In the meantime, the British have also learned of the Nazi leadership's plan to attend the premiere and dispatch a British officer, Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), to Paris to lead an attack on the cinema with the aid of the "Basterds" and a German double agent, an actress by the name of Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger).

Hammersmark arranges to meet Hicox and the Basterds in the basement of a French tavern. Unbeknown to her, however, the night of the rendezvous is also the occasion of a German staff sergeant (Alexander Fehling) celebrating the birth of his son with his soldier comrades. One of the German soldiers present strikes up a conversation with Hicox and notices that his accent is "odd". An SS officer (August Diehl) who is in the tavern as well also notices that odd accent. When Hicox gives the wrong three fingered order for whiskies (without using his thumb, a traditional German gesture), the SS officer realizes their deception. A firefight breaks out in which the British officer and two of the "Basterds" are killed as is everyone in the tavern except Hammersmark, who is wounded in her left leg.

Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a U.S. Army second lieutenant in the First Special Service Force [7] and the commanding officer of the Basterds, interrogates Hammersmark and decides to continue the operation against the cinema under the guise of Italians as suicide bombers. Colonel Landa, now an SD officer, is able to retrieve one of Hammersmark's shoes from the scene of the firefight at the tavern and also an autographed napkin which Hammersmark had signed for the staff sergeant's son. He approaches Hammersmark and Raine in the cinema lobby and is able to easily see through their disguises, as none, even Raine, can speak any Italian or German. He questions Hammersmark alone and makes her try on the shoe he had retrieved from the tavern. It is a perfect fit. He violently strangles her to death as a traitor, and orders the arrest of Raine.

In the closing stages of the film Quentin Tarantino sets the quirks which show that the film is in an alternative universe. Landa reveals himself to be a turncoat. While speaking with Raine and Utivich, he tells them that four major Nazi leaders must all be killed to end the war immediately. They are all attending Nation's Pride, and he is prepared to let the assassination continue-- for a price. He has no intention of helping end the war only to be tried by a Jewish tribunal for war crimes and end up facing the gallows. In order to help end the war, he wants to make a deal, one Raine cannot authorize, but his commanding officer (Harvey Keitel) can. Landa has his radio operator help Raine reach his general, where Landa states the terms of his deal-- he wants full military pension and benefits under his current rank, a medal of honor for everyone involved in the operation, American citizenship and a home on Nantucket Island. He also reveals that he had planted Raine's stick of dynamite in Hitler's box at the cinema, meaning that there are now three attempts against Hitler's life. Raine is placed on the radio and his general tells him that Landa and his radio operator will drive him and Utivich in a truck to American lines, then surrender to them, whereupon Raine will drive the truck to base and bring Landa and the operator to him for debriefing.

Meanwhile, during the showing of Stolz der Nation, Shosanna and her assistant (and lover) Marcel (Jacky Ido) are manning the projection booth when he tells her it is time. He needs to lock the auditorium and go behind the screen. As Marcel makes his way toward the auditorium, two of the Basterds, Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) and Pvt. Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom), leave their seats and exit the auditorium heading upstairs to the balcony level. Donowitz carefully spies on the guards watching the entrance to Hitler's opera box from the nearest bathroom.

Shosanna loads the doctored fourth reel of Stolz der Nation onto the projector camera as Marcel locks the auditorium doors, sliding the safety locks at the tops and bottoms of the doors into place, and then slides a heavy iron crowbar through the door handles, further barring them. He steps behind the screen where Shosanna had placed her entire stack of nitrate film. Shosanna pulls a lever to switch the projector to the doctored reel. Watching from behind the screen, Marcel lights up a smoke and waits.

Meanwhile, Zoller, uncomfortable with the way he is portrayed killing Americans in Stolz der Nation, leaves the cinema auditorium and makes his way to the projectionist's room to hit on Shosanna. She is deeply concerned at his intrusion and tries to get rid of Zoller, but he pushes his way into the room and angrily confronts Shosanna about her treatment of him, warning her that she's no longer in a position to disrespect him. Needing to get Zoller out of the way, she asks him to lock the door, dropping a subtle hint, 'we don't have much time.' Soon as Zoller's back is turned to her, she pulls her gun from her purse and shoots him in the back, mortally wounding him. Quickly she glances into the auditorium to make sure she wasn't heard. Suddenly, she hears Zoller groan and realizes he's still alive. In an apparent moment of pity, she turns him over, and he shoots her dead.

We see Donowitz and Ulmer preparing their ambush to take out the opera box guards. Donowitz is dressed as a waiter delivering a glass of champagne. The ambush goes off without a hitch and they kill both guards, taking their machine guns.

Meanwhile, we see Hitler greatly enjoying the battle scene in the movie, where Zoller is taking out numerous American soldiers by himself. But his joy comes to a quick end when Zoller's challenge (in Stolz der Nation) is answered with the changes Shosanna made to the fourth reel. She tells the audience that they're all going to die, and she is a Jew ready to take revenge. On her cue, Marcel flicks his cigarette into the pile of nitrate film, igniting it. The fire bursts through the screen, causing a pandemonium in the auditorium. Just then, Donowitz and Ulmer burst into Hitler's box and gun down Hitler, Goebbels and the other Nazi leaders. As the cinema is engulfed in flames, they fire randomly into the crowd, who are attempting to flee, but escape is impossible, as the auditorium doors are now locked and barred. Finally, the dynamite that Landa had planted in Hitler's box, as well as the dynamite strapped to the Basterds' legs, now goes off. The cinema is destroyed in the subsequent inferno, killing all inside.

In the final scene, Landa and his radio operator set off with Raine and Utivich towards the American lines in Normandy, as part of the deal he had made with Raine's commanding officer. At the American lines, he surrenders to Raine and hands over his gun and sword. Raine orders Utivich to handcuff Landa, and shoots the driver dead, ordering Utivich to scalp him over Landa's outraged protest. Raine reveals that while he appreciates Landa's underhanded deal and all the perks he's secured for himself, he is incensed that on arriving in America, Landa intended to take off his SS uniform and blend in to the American populace, with nobody remembering all the heinous deeds he committed as a Nazi officer. Raine plans to remedy that. The film ends with Raine carving a swastika into Landa's forehead and declaring that it may just be his greatest 'masterpiece.' [D-Man2010]

Review: by BRUCE KIRKLAND - Sun Media

What is not to like about dispatching armed and angry Jews to kill Nazis during the Second World War?

Especially in a Quentin Tarantino film.

It means there will be blood. And violence. In extreme close-ups.

There are shootings and beatings and scalpings. Swastikas are carved into forehead flesh. A German soldier's head is bashed in with a baseball bat, a home run that is dedicated to Ted Williams.

Feeling squeamish?

Too bad, then don't go.

Meanwhile, if you forget why Nazis are monsters, Tarantino launches the narrative with a brutal but realistic Holocaust scene of Germans butchering a family of Jewish dairy farmers.

The story's mesmerizing villain -- an S.S. officer played with oily charm and creepy, poetic intelligence by German actor Christoph Waltz -- is introduced right at the beginning and controls the arc of the entire film. That means Brad Pitt plays a secondary if memorable role, as do other key actors from Eli Roth to Diane Kruger, Julie Dreyfus, Til Schweiger, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Bruhl, an amusing Mike Myers as a British general, plus Sylvester Groth as a slimeball Goebbels and Martin Wuttke as a spittle-spewing psycho-Hitler.

Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds Poster
24 in. x 36 in.
Buy at

Framed   Mounted

Inglorious Basterds
Inglorious Basterds Poster
36 in. x 24 in.
Buy at

Framed   Mounted

Despite the violence -- in part because of it -- Inglourious Basterds is a brilliant example of shock cinema. But it owes more to the stylized traditions of spaghetti westerns than it does to classic American war movies. It is also a Jewish revenge fantasy -- with emphasis on the fantasy.

While extreme in its grit and gore, Inglourious Basterds is often surprisingly funny, like Pulp Fiction was between the murders. With its deliberately misspelled title as an indicator of the off-kilter story to come, Basterds tells the politically incorrect and historically inaccurate story of a platoon of Jewish-American soldiers dropped into occupied France in 1942 to wreak havoc on the Germans. The goal is a reign of sheer terror. Tarantino does not differentiate between regular German soldiers and the S.S. goons. The Basterds kill all they meet, except one who can then tell the tale.

A set of parallel stories leads the Basterds toward the film's fiery climax.

One story chronicles the activities of Waltz's Colonel Landa, who is proud of his nickname The Jew Hunter. He plays with words with aplomb, making his character even more romantic and dangerous. And Waltz handles the complex Tarantino dialogue with ease in English, French, German and even Italian (in this film, people talk in whatever language is appropriate to the situation, and we get English subtitles on the French and German).

Another storyline shows what happens to a young Jewish woman (the fetching Melanie Laurent) who escaped one of Landa's atrocities. She is now running a theatre in Paris, offering both sex appeal and respect for cinema.

Her theatre, and Laurent, attract the attention of a cocky German war hero (Bruhl) who is also the star of a German war film depicting his exploits as a sniper. Roth, who plays the baseball-wielding Basterd, also directed Bruhl's black-and-white, neo-classic, film-within-the-film.

Tarantino, being a cinephile, finally concocts a fantastic plot device to bring the loose ends of the plot together. It involves film, as a medium for conveying propaganda and as a volatile physical entity.

In addition, the emotional twists that bring Inglourious Basterds to its bittersweet end are pure cinema.

Don't look for reality.

Tarantino makes outrageous and glorious movies, not documentaries.


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