Inglourious Basterds (2009)


Our Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewer: Shannon H.


Most films about World War Two involve a great deal of research to make every last detail as accurate as possible, with minor technicalities changed to maintain the storyline. Few films about this war are humorous, considering that the war was hellish and tragic. But then, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is no ordinary WWIII film.
In 1941, Col. Hanz Landa (Christoph Waltz) pays a visit to a French farmer rumored to be harboring a family of French Jews.  After the tearful farmer admits to hiding them under the floorboards of his home, Col. Landa invites his men to shoot through the floor, killing everyone. However, a young Jewish woman named Shosanna Dreyfuss (Melanie Laurent) survives the massacre and escapes. A few years later, under a different alias, Shosanna is seen working at a movie theater that she inherited from her deceased aunt and uncle in France. After "meeting" with a young, movie-loving German soldier, she is forced to show a propaganda film titled National Pride, detailing the young soldier’s sniping exploits in Italy. She and her trusted Franco-African employee Marcel (Jacky Ido) decide to burn down the theater after being informed that Nazi officers and their family and friends will be in attendance... but only after showing their own “movie reel” added at the end of the propaganda film.
In the meantime, the German army has its eyes on a band of American Jewish soldiers known as “the Basterds,” led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his accomplice Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth). Their reputation is widespread, especially since one of their own soldiers, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Sweiger), killed 13 Nazi soldiers (he was to be sent to the German high command but the Basterds found him first). The Basterds' modus operandi involves killing Nazis and cutting the scalps off of their dead bodies. After three of Lt. Raine’s men are killed, German actress Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) informs him that the propaganda film Nation’s Pride will be shown at a French movie theater (the same one run by Shosanna) with many Nazi personnel watching it. This gives Raine the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the film’s showing and take out hundreds of Nazis at the same time...
There is a lot of offensive content in the movie, though surprisingly, it doesn’t pervade the entire film. There are one or two sexual references as well as one scene of sodomy involving a man and a woman (it is brief and nothing graphic is shown). Two soldiers point their handguns at a Nazi officer’s crotch, threatening to shoot him in that area of his body. The violence is not pervasive but it is graphic at times. American soldiers are seen scalping German soldiers. One of them claims that his Native American heritage gives him an excuse to scalp Nazis. Another carves a swastika in the foreheads of the Germans who are fortunate enough to escape death. There are scenes of people being shot, strangled, and violently stabbed; a man is brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat. A man sticks his fingers into a bullet wound to cause pain. There is a large amount of blood. The word bast**** in all its misspelled glory is surprisingly used less than ten times, despite the film’s title. There are over 20 uses of the f-word and other scattered profanities, including five abuses of deity and three uses of the s-word. The film is “spiritually neutral”; there’s no pro or anti-God elements or themes. If most of the cursing and some of the violence were eliminated, it could pass for a PG-13.


I anticipated Inglourious Basterds to be far more violent than it appeared to be on the movie posters and DVD cover and was surprised that it wasn't but that does not downplay the fact that at times it is very brutal. I also surprised myself; I actually liked this movie and I normally don’t care for films that have an intentional “shock” factor. It was well made, has excellent character development, and goes into a great deal of depth in the lives of those living in Nazi-occupied France, something we don’t normally see in a film set during this era. The first scene is quite moving; in fact, it would make a good short foreign film.  Although his role was a villain, I was incredibly impressed with Christoph Waltz’s performance as the shady and shameless Col. Landa. The Oscar nomination he received is well deserved. There were a few things that I didn’t like about this film, though: there are two different storylines and it takes at least an hour before the plots come together. Director Tarantino didn’t seem to put a great deal of focus on Lt. Raine and his fellow soldiers and at times, the scenes are a little jumpy, but aside from these minor complaints, it was well-made and executed. 
What I found offensive aside from the graphic killings, profanity, and other questionable content was the fact that Lt. Aldo Raine felt justified in slaughtering German soldiers in a way that is incredibly barbaric; he believed by lowering himself to the level of the Nazis, he could make everything right for his fellow Jews. Sometimes he tends to forget that everyone in the German army isn't necessarily a card carrying members of the Nazi Party as he kills and scalps those who are just fighting the war for the sake of their country. However, he is welcome to German “traitors” as he makes room for Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in his band of merry men. It was also a little hard for me to get past the deliberate historical inaccuracy. For those like me who are sticklers for facts, this is found primarily in the director "retelling” the events of the war for art’s sake as well as for laughs. Quentin Tarantino’s film is a great film from a cinematic perspective, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a Christ-minded audience.