The Inglourious Basterds are sent into occupied France to “kill Nazis”, and killing is what they do; along with everyone else in the movie. Quirky dialogue, multi-dimensional characters, and special attention to the aesthetics wraps the audience in a unique movie-going experience.
Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) assembles a team of Jewish-American soldiers called the Inglourious Basterds, to be dropped into France to commit guerilla attacks on Nazis. In nearby France, perfectly mannered, linguistic master Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Watlz) has been tasked with seeking out and exterminating all of the Jews left in France. It is in this roll that Shosana Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) meets Colonel Landa. It is the crush German war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) has on Shosana that throws all the characters together in a horrific series of events that only war can justify.
The first ten minutes of Inglourious Basterds will rile even the most stoic. It’s calm dialogue and sparkling appearance drives the overall tension to an almost unmanageable level. By the end of the first scene, I was confused about the morality of the situation, angry at almost all involved, and had given myself sore arms from clenching my fists. Tarantino pulled his line and I was hooked.
There is no shortage of dark in Inglourious Basterds. People get their faces blown off, Wild West techniques of enemy torture are used, and historic sore spots are poked with pointy emotion sticks. Even though scenes erupt into violence with notice and foreshadowing, a gasp could be heard from across the audience. Writer-director Quentin Tarantino doesn’t shy away from exaggerated, unflinching expositions of violence.
Col. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz, is repugnant, ruthless and vicious. His dialogue is frighteningly elegant, and is nearly always disturbingly calm. Yet, every time he is on screen, there is yet another reason to admire him. This adoration left me feeling dirty and a bit disgusted with myself. There is nothing more disturbing than finding something commendable in a character you want so badly to condemn.
Landa, Raine, The Inglourious Basterds, Shosana and Zoller are woven into each other’s lives one string at a time. It isn’t until about halfway through the movie that the audience really understand the scope of their relationship and its consequences. It isn’t until the end of the movie that the true nature of all of the characters is confirmed.
Inglourious Basterds’ cinematography makes it almost possible to smell the blood and perfume. It’s easy to feel like you are actually in the presence of evil or beauty when the camera refuses to look away from the violence or glamour. There is a ruthless use of angles, lighting and shadow to create a world almost impossible to escape.
The graphic depictions of violence might be difficult for many thinner skinned people to handle without complaint. Still, the depth of character, quirky interactions and stunning visuals might win over many people who would otherwise be put off by the violence.
Inglourious Basterds’ unmistakable visual style, off-kilter dialogue, unfolding story line and violence is a feast and an embrace of our savage nature.