Inglourious Basterds is a 2009 war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino with multi-star cast including Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger and Mélanie Laurent. The film tells an alternate history story of two plots to assassinate Nazi Germany’s leadership, one planned by Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent), a young French Jewish cinema proprietor, and the other by a team of Jewish American soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt). Christopher Waltz plays the infamous “Jew-hunter” SS Colonel Hans Landa.
The movie has several memorable lines and quotes like almost every Tarantino movie. The story is incredulous and hard to believe, but the entertainment and the sheer thrill it provides is very real. The real gem of the movie is its villain Hans Landa, played magnificently by Christopher Waltz who won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance. In terms of guilty pleasure movies, this one ranks high and is probably one of Tarantino’s best.
The story begins with an introduction to Hans Landa, in 1941, then SS-Standartenführer Hans Landa interrogates French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite in his home as to the whereabouts of the last unaccounted-for Jewish family in the area, the Dreyfus family. Landa suspects that the LaPadites are hiding the Dreyfuses under their floorboards and, in exchange for the Germans agreeing to leave his family alone for the rest of the war, LaPadite reluctantly confirms it, after being threatened by Landa. Landa orders his SS soldiers to shoot through the floorboards, killing all but one of the Dreyfus family; Shosanna, the daughter, escapes. As she runs, Landa decides to spare her.
There are three divergent plots to the story which begin after the murder of the Dreyfuses – on one side, Lieutenant Aldo Raine of the First Special Service Force rounds up and recruits Jewish-American soldiers to the Basterds, a commando unit formed to instill fear among the German soldiers by killing and scalping them. The Basterds include Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz and Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz, a rogue German soldier who murdered thirteen Gestapo officers. In Germany, Adolf Hitler interviews a young German soldier, Private Butz, the only survivor of a Basterd attack on his squad, who reveals that Raine carved a swastika into Butz’s forehead with a bowie knife so that in the future, Butz could never hide the fact that he was once a Nazi soldier. The Basterds continue to sow terror behind enemy lines.
Meanwhile, Shosanna Dreyfus is living in Paris, operating a cinema under the name “Emmanuelle Mimieux.” She meets Fredrick Zoller, a German sniper famed for killing 250 Allied soldiers in a single battle. Zoller stars in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride). Infatuated with Shosanna, Zoller convinces Joseph Goebbels to hold the film’s premiere at her cinema. Landa, who is the head of security for the premiere, interrogates Shosanna, hinting that he suspects her real identity. Shosanna plots with her Afro-French lover and projectionist, Marcel, to set the cinema ablaze during the premiere and kill the Nazi leaders who will attend.
In England, the British are making plans to assassinate Hitler after hearing about the premiere. British Commando Lieutenant Archie Hicox is recruited to lead Operation Kino, a British plan to attack the premiere in cooperation with the Basterds. He would be met with an Allied undercover agent German film star Bridget von Hammersmark who would be attending the film premiere in Paris. What follows is chaos as the three groups collide with each other. Further spoilers will not be provided for the sake of those who haven’t seen this masterpiece yet, to enjoy the movie fully.
Inglourious Basterds is full of top class acting performances with the entire cast bringing its A-game except a very loud and buffoonish Hitler. The movie should not be judged by its plot – the insane plot, only serves to increase the entertainment this movie provides. It also provides a very satisfying end to those who would prefer to rewrite history and have an evil man like Hitler end up dying horribly. It also serves a good and useful lesson in karma, as a cunning man like Landa, who we expect to escape, also doesn’t escape unscathed.
Interesting characters like Aldo the Apache who demands 100 Nazi scalps from each of his men, Donny the Bear Jew who clubs Nazis with a bat, Landa the Jew Hunter who plays with his victims before trapping them and two strong female characters make this movie what it is – a wholesome, fast-paced treat. It does contain a lot of violence but when you watch a Tarantino movie, you end up signing up for that.
Watch Inglourious Basterds today if you have committed the sin of not having watched it earlier. If you have seen it, watch it again to enjoy the movie and find something new to love about this masterpiece.