More daring than a gritty war movie, is rewriting the history of WWII. In Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, we are taken to Nazi occupied France where we meet SS officer Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), nicknamed The Jew Hunter. The riveting and mesmerizing opening scene establishes a few things: 1) Hans is very smart. 2) He’s viciously ruthless. 3) He enjoys a good chase, leaving Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent) to run.
Four years later, Shoshanna is the owner of a movie theater in Paris, where she is being forced to host the premier of the latest Nazi propaganda film Nations Pride. The star of the film, young Nazi veteran Pvt. Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), lets his ego grow before his fame is known and tries to weasel a date Shoshanna.
Meanwhile, a band of American Jews, the Basterds, have been terrorizing the Nazis all across Europe. Led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), they collect scalps of Nazis they kill and leave any survivors forever marked with a swastika on their foreheads. When they hear that Hitler and other major leaders of the Nazi party will all be attending a movie premier in Paris, they concoct a plan with movie star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) to get inside and set off explosives. Little do they know that Shoshanna is planning to trap the Nazi’s within the theater and set the whole building on fire, with a spectacular surprise on the fourth reel.
If I wanted to compare the Oscars to a black tie affair, Tarantino always dresses his film in something slightly flashy and quirky, and is unwilling to compromise. That’s what we love about his films and he fits right in, because he does this so well. Here, he is turning WWII on its head, where a band of American Jews travel to Europe with a strict agenda to kick some Nazi ass and end up aiding in ending the war in a very different way than the history books read. He also throws in his signature style of music and grind house inspired moments, like when we’re introduced to Hugo Stiglitz. Even in this 1940’s setting, we don’t find these moments distracting because the whole film already has this quirky flare and each odd moment is done so quickly and cleanly. To do this well takes practice, Tarantino has done a lot of that in his previous films.
Waltz is not a big, threatening looking guy, but he makes Hans look like a force to be reckoned with. He is cunning, speaks many languages and is always looking out for himself, especially towards the end. What I think really tipped the scales and made him the indisputable winner for best supporting actor was his ability to also be so funny. That first scene is just starting to become very tense, and then he pulls out that ridiculous pipe and we can’t help but laugh, even though we’re nervous. Right there, Hans puts on a funny hat and doesn’t even realize it, which makes it all the better. And I dare anyone not to burst out laughing the first time they see the “Oooh, that’s a bingo!” scene. I can’t remember another time that one simple line made me laugh so hard.
Do most people notice how much this story seems to circulate around the film industry? The main plot is to trap all the Nazi leaders in a theater during their movie premier, in a fire fueled by highly combustible film. There’s also Hammersmark, an actress who helps the Basterds gain entrance to the premier. Then there’s the star of Nation’s Pride, who thinks that because he’s a big enough war hero to have his own Nazi propaganda film he can be with Shoshanna. Thing is, all these movies, their stars and their political agendas need a place to be seen.
Even though Shoshanna is forced to hold the premier for Nation’s Pride, she ultimately decides what will be shown and how everyone will leave. Tarantino makes a movie theater the ultimate weapon to end the war. Imagine if more theater owners were so bold, you really have no idea how much your average theater employee can alter your visit. I was part of that rat-race for four summers. We really decide how much butter is on your corn or if your movie will be in the nice theater, the one that smells weird or the one with noisy crickets living behind the screen. One of my favorite moments at work was to stand along the side of the theater, in the shadows and watch people like you during the best moments in the movies. Why else do you think they make us wear such dark colors? Honestly, I loved to see your reactions, some of you are quite entertaining. That close-up shot of Hitler laughing like a maniac; I’ve seen many of you make similar faces. And I think Tarantino knows it too.
“You know how you get to Carnegie Hall, don’t ya? Practice.”
My pick for best 2009 film.
Gotta agree with you Cooper, not only did I find Basterds the most enjoyable but compelling, smart, daring and I find something new to love with every viewing. I’m not at all bitter about The Hurt Locker beating Basterds, I think in time it they’ll both become classics. Oscar night, I was pretty much happy if Avatar lost.