I usually have a problem with highly violent movies, and Quentin Tarantino has a reputation for such. After all, this is the director that brought us the Kill Bill series, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, some of the most violent movies that I can name.
And make no mistake about it, in Basterds you will see humans being scalped, bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, shot to death with machine gun fire at close range, have their throats cut, do I need to go on?
The Basterds are a troupe of American and European Jews who banded together under the U.S. Military to fight the Nazis. The movie starts out showing Nazi atrocities against their occupied territories in WW II. After we are sufficiently shocked and angered, we see the Basterds commit atrocities just as vile, but somehow we see them as the good guys and we root for them.
This is a story of revenge and alternate history, and with Nazis being such convenient and graphic villains, it works very well.
This was a complex movie to make. Tarantino tried to keep the languages intact. There was a lot of French and German dialog, convenient with subtitles, interspersed in the movie, since it played in France. Many of the players were German, of course. I usually don’t like it if foreigners start speaking American English, albeit with accents, and we’re supposed to immerse into their culture and think like they do. It does not usually work.
For this movie, it helped being trilingual. I could catch most of the French, but I would not have done it without the subtitles. There were some sections of the plot that depended on one English soldier impersonating a German officer, and how his accent was somehow wrong. They did that very well. The accent in his German could not be placed, and sure enough, it led to his demise. Accents in German are extremely colorful and the way you speak can easily place you into a 50 mile radius into a specific place in the country. Of course, if you simply speak American English, you have to just trust the subtitles and the story for that effect.
Having all the characters speak their native languages and switch to others, as they would in the real world, worked very well in this movie. The most impressive was the character Colonel Hans Landa, a Nazi jew hunter who was obviously fluent in German, French and English, played by Christoph Waltz, a native Austrian. He threw in a segment of fluent Italian when the plot required that.
Hitler was played by Martin Wuttke, a native German. Interestingly, I thought that Hitler had an odd accent, almost fake, and strange enough for me to research the actor later to figure out why that was. Wuttke is German, so I have to presume he did the Hitler speak on purpose. Maybe I need to listen to some Hitler speeches to see why they did it that way.
Of course, there was also Brat Pitt with a strong southern accent to show his home town in the mountains of Tennessee. Pitt did a wonderful job showing a southern hick with a mission, a vengeance and an edge.
The lead female role was a French Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus, played by Melanie Laurent, a French native.
All in all, this film did a wonderful job working the various languages into the story, including English, German, French and Italian, always remaining authentic and real, yet never confusing the viewer.
In this movie, the bad guys are the Germans, and they are really bad. The good guys are the “Basterds” and they too, are really bad, but you root for them. It is a highly violent movie, and if you can’t stomach seeing people shot to pieces or bludgeoned, you’ll be closing your eyes here and there. There are only two outcomes as you walk out of the theater: Either you love this movie, or you hate it. Either way, you will have been thoroughly entertained.
One thought on “Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds”
I agree, despite the excessive violence.. this movie was really really clever and I enjoyed all the subtle humor.