Inglorious Bastards – 2009
This was a really good movie. Quinten Tarantino is one of those directors that has a unique and recognizable style, one which I might say, you either love or hate. This movie had a great cast, a great script, and a captivating story. The dialogue is spoken in German, French, and English, so the movie is heavily subtitled. And while Nazis are never a laughing matter, the film is almost a dark comedy.
It is a fictional World War II story that gives us an alternate end to the terrible conflict. Here the war is ended when Hitler and his top brass attend a German propaganda movie premier in France. Two assassination plots take place at the same time. The secretly Jewish woman named Soshanna Dreyfus, played by Melanie Laurent, owns the theatre. Her plan is to lock Hitler and his generals in the cinema and then burn the place down. But her plan is complicated when the German war hero, about whom the movie is made, Private Fredrick Zoller, played by the very handsome Daniel Bruhl, becomes smitten with her.
The second plot is led by the Bastards, a special-forces commando unit on their own in Nazi occupied France. They are led by Lieutenant Aldo “The Apache” Raine, played by Brad Pitt. His men are Jewish-American soldiers. Aldo gives his men instructions to kill and scalp all the Nazi soldiers they can. Among his company are men like Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz, played by Eli Roth, and an ex-Nazi officer who hates the Third Reich named Hugo Stiglitz, played by Til Schweiger. The bastards are joined by British Royal Marine, Archie Hicox, played by Michael Fassbender. Their plan is to make contact with a German actress who is a spy for the Allies, Bridget von Hammersmark, who will get the Bastards into the movie premier so they can blow it up in a suicide mission with a ton of explosives.
The movie is a study in mounting tension. The scene in which that Bastards and Hicox meet with Bridget von Hammersmark was so masterfully written and filmed, it had me on the edge of my seat. The movie’s final climax at the cinema is just as nerve-wracking. Movies with Nazis have a natural tendency to be suspenseful. But here, the film’s main bad guy, SS Colonel Hans Landa, expertly played by Christopher Waltz, was the kind of man who made even his fellow Nazis nervous. He was nicknamed “The Jew Hunter,” and with good reason. He was incredibly smart, zealous about his work, and even charming when he wanted to be.
He didn’t seem to hate the Jews. But he was so obsessed with performing the duties of his job, he took pride in his work, even if it included carrying out atrocities against the Jews and their sympathizers. He was a great character, very well-written, and very well-acted. In fact, Waltz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role. But Colonel Landa is also very self-serving. Once he learns that Bridget is a spy, he strangles her to death and then captures Aldo and one of his men, Private Smithson, called “The Little Man”, played by B.J. Novak. He makes a deal with United States Intelligence and allows the assassination to proceed in exchange for immunity and rewards.
In the end, pretty much everyone dies except The Apache, The Little Man, and The Jew Hunter. And as a parting gesture of hatred for Landa and all Nazis, Aldo betrays him by carving a swastika into his forehead, so that even if he goes to America and takes off his uniform, he will always have the symbol of his crimes on display for the world to see.
As I researched the movie, I read what some critics had to say about the film. It was generally well-received, except for a few dissenters who said that for a movie about WWII and a band of Jewish commandos, the movie had very little emphasis on the fact that they were Jewish. It was even pointed out that the Bastards reflected poorly on the Jews because they are portrayed as terrorists who commit the very atrocities inflicted upon them in the war, thus becoming Nazis themselves. But I disagree. First, you have to consider that the movie was fictional, and it never pretended that it wasn’t. We all know Hitler wasn’t gunned down and blown up in a cinema in France. Also, the Bastard giving the orders, Aldo Raines, was clearly not Jewish. He commanded a group of Jewish men who hated Nazis with the sole purpose of being a terrorist group to strike fear into Nazi hearts, and to kill as many of them as possible. And the entire feel of the movie leaned more towards action, suspense, and comedy rather than drama or a movie about war atrocities.
Nowhere was this more evident than something at which Tarantino is a virtuosic genius. Hi chooses some of the best music to support his scenes. In this film, a lot of it is strange, jarring, in-your-face, and yes, nearly comical, but it all works. It is perfect to incite the bizarre confusion and tension he was going for. I don’t know how he does it, but it is part of what makes this awesome movie unmistakably his.