"Sometimes Extremely Bloody and Sometimes Riveting"
uentin Tarantino’s new movie, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, is derivative, yet totally unique. Its music uses soundtracks from movies as disparate as Italian spaghetti westerns, a couple 1980s horror movies, a Burt Reynolds moonshine movie from the ‘70s, Brian Hutton’s masterful World War II comedy KELLY’S HEROES, and John Wayne’s wonderful Oscar-nominated epic, THE ALAMO. It takes its title from a 1978 Italian movie about World War II adapted from THE DIRTY DOZEN. And, its cinematic style borrows from spaghetti westerns as well as movies like KELLY’S HEROES and THE DIRTY DOZEN, not to mention the Mexican standoffs that are such a staple of Hong Kong filmmaker John Woo’s exhilarating action sequences. All of these elements, however, are held together by a new explosive, thrilling and often riveting story containing Tarantino’s gift for clever, witty and vivid dialogue.
The opening credits roll to the strains of Dmitri Tiomkin’s haunting rendition of the song “The Green Leaves of Summer” that he wrote for John Wayne’s production of THE ALAMO. A title flashes, “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France.” The story begins with an intense interrogation of a French farmer by Col. Hans Landa, a genial but deadly officer in the SS known as “the Jew Hunter.” By switching to English, Landa is able to threaten the farmer to reveal silently that he is hiding a Jewish family under the floorboards of his house. Landa orders his soldiers to machine-gun the people hiding under the floorboards, but the teenage daughter, Shosanna, escapes and runs across the field to the woods. Admiring her spunk, Landa watches as she runs away in the distance into the distance, letting her escape.
Cut to the early years of the United States involvement in the war. American Lt. Aldo Raines, played by Brad Pitt, organizes a band of Jewish soldiers to perform swift, brutal acts of retribution against Nazi soldiers behind enemy lines. His men scalp their victims. They let a few soldiers go, however, to spread even more fear among the Germans. But, not before cutting a swastika into their foreheads so that people will always know which side of the war they took. Of course, these actions infuriate Adolf Hitler.
Cut to June 1944. Lt. Raines and his men join British soldier Archie Hicox and German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark on a mission in Paris. They learn that the leaders of the Third Reich, including Hitler, will be attending the premiere of a movie about one of their soldiers, who has been lauded as “the German Sergeant York.” As chance would have it, the new owner of the cinema scheduled to hold the premiere just happens to be Shosanna, who has a revenge plan of her own.
Into this situation comes Col. Landa, who describes himself as “a detective, a damn good detective.” Will he be able to foil the two plots to kill Hitler and his right-hand men, and keep the war going?
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is filled with riveting suspense and action, laced with funny comic moments. Christoph Waltz creates one of the most vivid, chilling villains in recent memory. Brad Pitt is a hoot as the Southern talking, boisterous Lt. Raines. And, everything is saturated with Quentin Tarantino’s always vibrant, droll, playful, and intricate dialogue.
Regrettably, there are shots of extreme bloody and gratuitous violence, although Tarantino pulls the camera away at a couple of the more extreme moments. The movie also contains plenty of strong foul language and a brief shot of depicted sex between Hitler’s propaganda minister Goebbels and his French mistress. The violence is particularly excessive, however.
That said, the movie clearly sides with the good guys fighting Hitler’s National Socialists, but there is a strong and brutal revenge element to it that suggests the ends always justifies the means. Also, at the end, there is a strong, callous message against showing any mercy to the Nazi enemies. The movie’s frequent comical tone and action elements lighten the mood, however. Ultimately, this is supposed to be an exciting, spirited war movie. In a way, it’s also intended to be a fable and a fairy tale, since it opens with the words, “Once upon a time.” As such, the movie evokes memories of THE DIRTY DOZEN, KELLY’S HEROES and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. What lifts it above the average popcorn movie is its chilling depiction of an amoral villain, its fully realized characters and its captivating, tense dialogue.
“I like that it’s the power of the cinema that fights the Nazis,” Tarantino himself adds. “But not just as a metaphor, as a literal reality.”
This brings us back to all the movie references that permeate this movie. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS shows the power of the mass media, for good and ill. In that sense, it is a wise, profound movie as well as a sometimes exhilarating, audacious piece of filmmaking. The violence is clearly excessive, however, and its message of justice and retribution is quite merciless.
(B, PP, PaPaPa, H, LLL, VVV, SS, N, AA, D, MMM) Solid moral worldview in patriotic war movie about fighting and killing Hitler and his Nationalist Socialist army, but marred with a very strong pagan, even humanist revenge motif that can be brutal and advocates showing no mercy, including a message that the ends always justifies the means; about 43 to 45 obscenities (including many “f” words but many other light and not so light kinds as well), five GDs and one My God; some very strong, extremely bloody violence and action violence includes soldier hits Nazi’s head with baseball bat and then camera backs away to long distance shot as solider beats him further, soldiers scalp Nazi soldiers, soldier carves swastika into Nazi soldier’s forehead in close-up, shots of scalped Nazi corpses, man slits Nazi soldier’s throat, soldier machine-guns Nazi leader’s head repeatedly, shootings, gunfight in tavern, soldier pokes woman’s wound to make sure she is telling the truth, explosions, Nazi soldiers with guns kill Jewish family hiding under floorboards, Allied spies gleefully machine gun Nazi Party officials in crowded theater, and black and white propaganda film within movie shows war battle and sniper shooting people, with blood; short depicted sex scene between Hitler’s married propaganda minister Goebbels and his French mistress; upper male nudity; alcohol use and drunkenness; smoking; and, anti-Semitism rebuked but in a way that is merciless, amoral villain, very strong revenge theme, movie suggests the ends always justifies the means, and man is threatened to reveal where his family has hidden a Jewish family.
Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS stars Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raines, who forms a ruthless band of Jewish American soldiers ordered to perform swift, brutal acts of retribution against Nazi soldiers behind enemy lines. Eventually, the story moves to 1944. Raines and his men join a British commando and a German actress who’s an undercover agent. The mission? Kill Adolf Hitler and the German High Command attending the premiere of a propaganda film in a Paris theater. The theater’s female owner has a revenge plot of her own. Into this tense situation steps the evil Col. Landa, a wily SS officer introduced in the movie’s tense opening scene.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is an audacious and suspenseful piece of filmmaking. Christoph Waltz creates one of the most vivid, chilling villains in memory. Brad Pitt is a hoot as the Southern talking, boisterous Lt. Raines. However, the movie contains plenty of extreme and gratuitous bloody violence, strong foul language and a short sex scene. It clearly sides with the good guys fighting Hitler’s National Socialists, but there is a strong revenge element. Some profound themes and moments augment the excitement, but the violence is too extreme and merciless.