Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth,
Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Melanie Laurent
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 153 Minutes
Release Date: December 15, 2009
“I think this just might be my masterpiece.”
Will Quentin Tarantino ever stop dazzling us and one upping himself as a filmmaker? The answer to that question, quite honestly, is never. And this is a guy who has done nothing but make the most of an enthralling cinematic experience each time out since Reservoir Dogs came out nearly 18 years ago.
Though Pulp Fiction remains in my mind as his unsurpassed masterpiece, Tarantino has now made the film that I can easily label as his second greatest achievement, which for a filmmaker of his status is REALLY saying a lot. Inglourious Basterds is monumental cinematic marvel on so many levels. Such a description isn’t uncommon when describing any Tarantino film, but the caliber of greatness here is on such a high level that, as a lover of pure cinema, you are practically in a complete state of awe throughout its entirety.
This is the film Tarantino has dreamt of making ever since becoming a filmmaker, and you are definitely convinced of that while watching it. He basically took a WWII epic, and re-crafted it with the all around feel of a spaghetti western. And being a writer of such rich dialogue, Tarantino applies it to sheer perfection in elongated sequences that have you so thoroughly engrossed no matter how long the scenes go on, which is something that might test some viewers on a first viewing…but trust me, the payoff to these sequences are so immensely rewarding.
Such is the case with the amazing scene that opens the film (or “Chapter”, which Tarantino has divided the film into) where we are introduced to the villain of the story, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), as he interrogates a French farmer about the whereabouts of Jews allegedly hiding in the area. By introducing Hans with something of a charming personality before establishing his cold-blooded demeanor by the end of this sequence, Tarantino has given cinema one of its greatest villains of all time. We’re talking about a character right on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker.
We are then introduced to the Basterds in question; a squad of eight Jewish-American soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, in a fantastically over the top performance). Aldo, aka Aldo the Apache, is also given a remarkable character introduction, as he makes his mission clear to his men. They’re going to be dropped into Nazi-occupied France with one goal in mind, killing every Nazi they come across.
And that they do, as illustrated in one brilliantly bloody scene where Aldo demands from a captured German soldier the locations of his fellow soldiers through in the area they’re in. When the soldier refuses to give out the information, Aldo calls out from behind him the most feared member of the Basterds; Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), aka “The Bear Jew”. His specialty involves the use of a baseball bat, which we get to see in full brain-bashing glory.
The biggest surprise of Inglourious Basterds is that the majority of the film isn’t so much concerned with the exploits of Aldo and his men. As incredibly fun as it is to see the Basterds kill and scalp every Nazi in their path, it turns out that Tarantino has a much more enriching story to tell. Now to be fair, all that was promised in the trailers for the movie were the Basterds doing a whole bunch of killing and while it may represent somewhat deceptive marketing, the remaining story angles in this film are precisely what make the film the grand scale epic that it is.
Specifically, the story involving Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), the proprietor of a most elegant movie theater in Paris, and her chance encounter with Nazi soldier and propaganda film sensation Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). He becomes smitten with her to the point that he’s all too eager to introduce her to the director of his upcoming film, himself a high ranking Nazi. Before long, Zoller requests that the movie have its world premiere at her theater.
Shoshanna, it turns out, is the lone survivor of the massacre orchestrated by Hans at the beginning of the film, and has been hiding out in Paris ever since then. Her fling with Zoller eventually reunites her with Hans, who is heading up security for the upcoming movie premiere. This reunion triggers a desire in her to orchestrate a revenge plot once it becomes official that the movie premiere will indeed take place at her theater.
The plot gets an even bigger development when the Aldo and his men, engaging in a secret operation with German actress/spy Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), learn that Hitler himself will be attending the premiere. Once the two separate revenge plots meet up at the movie theater on the big night, Tarantino gives his film a spectacular climax that will blow your mind in so many ways. Let’s just say that this movie doesn’t play by the rules of history, and that’s a great thing here!
With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has created yet another cinematic experience for the history books. No other filmmaker in the world delivers such a grand mixture of tension-building dialogue sequences, eye-popping violence, and ingenious music selections on the soundtrack in truly epic fashion. It’s a war movie unlike any other and a film unlike any other!
Spectacular from beginning to end fairly sums up the awesome quality of this Blu-ray release from Universal. The images provided by Tarantino and his frequent cinematographer, the brilliant Robert Richardson, appear in superbly rich form in the 1080p. The opening shot of the French farm is a most beautiful eye-opener and beautifully sets up the striking quality for the remainder of the presentation. Fantastically detailed throughout!
Even more outstanding is the DTS HD mix, which greatly accompanies all the great music and action bits that Tarantino is known for. Every possible sound element is delivered in the highest possible order here, from dialogue delivery to music performance (including everything from Ennio Morricone to David Bowie) and the outbursts of violence, which sound incredibly effective.
On this Universal Blu-ray, we get some great and informative behind the scenes material and other assorted extras. Included are Extended & Alternate Scenes, a Roundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Elvis Mitchell, and featurettes including “The Making of Nation's Pride”, “A Conversation with Rod Taylor”, “Nation's Pride: The Film Within The Film”, “The Original Inglorious Bastards” and “Quentin Tarantino's Camera Angel”. Lastly, there’s a Film Poster Gallery Tour and Trailers.
Inglourious Basterds is, for me, Quentin Tarantino’s greatest filmmaking accomplishment since Pulp Fiction. Here’s hoping that QT will finally garner some much deserved Oscar attention, because this film is most deserving of that. One of 2009’s truly great films!