Sunday Night Movie: Inglorious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s newest film Inglorious Basterds hit DVD and Blu-ray last week and I luckily got a copy via Netflix to watch as my Sunday Night Movie.

I had heard that what the previews sold and what the film actually was were very different things. This I can say is absolutely true. The previews tell you about Lt Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt) and his small band of Jewish-Americans working in occupied Europe terrorizing the Nazi with acts of brutality and malice.

From that you would expect a film with the first act being about the formation of the Basterds, the second act would be the acts of brutality and terror, which a reveal about the middle of the act, perhaps a traitor from within, leading into a third act with the mucho big target that’s impossible to hit but by gum they are going to do it. Many are killed, but the target is hit. If this is a movie about the good war of WWII then things look up, if it is a cynical film about the futility of war, they hit the target but it makes no difference and their sacrifices are for nothing.

That was not the movie that Quentin Tarantino delivered.

He created something much more interesting and enjoyable that the rather cliched plot I just outline above. I regret that I did not see Inglorious Basterds in the theater. This film deserved the full theater experience.

There are actually three plot line in this movie.

The first starts with Col. Hans Landa ( Christoph Waltz.) Landa is tasked when we first meet him with locating escaped Jew in occupied France. The introduction of the character is a wonderfully construct scene of tight tension developed entirely in table-side conversation. Christoph Waltz is an Austrian actor and like every single person in the film is perfectly cast.

The second plot line is Lt Aldo Raines and is Inglorious Basterds. We actually do not see a lot of their acts of violence. It’s not needed for this story. What we do see is the ingenuity and daring that these men have.

The third plot line is Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) a young Jewish woman who escaped Col Landa’s grasp. However her plot line is not about escape or hunting down the dear colonel.

The rest of the film is the criss-crossing and finally resolution of all the story-lines in Paris in 1944. There are British spies and secret meeting and loads and loads of tension. The tension is nearly always built around secrets. There are people with lethal secrets trying desperately to keep them while under direct observation by their enemies.

Language is vitally important in the construction of this move. Tarantino does not use the convention that the audience understands all characters regardless of language. The German speak German most of the time, the French their language and of course the American hardly speak anything but English. There is heavy use of subtitles and most of the foreign parts are played by actor of that nationality. The effect is one that really works for creating tension in scenes that had they been conducted purely in English would have lacked the punch that Tarantino found.

This film is not history. Any movie that starts with the inter-card — Once Upon A Time — is telling you that you are about to go into a fairy tale. This is a violent and bloody fair tale, but the real fair tales were too before the Victorians got ahold of them. So with that in mind you should best look upon this as a form of Alternate history rather than a story set in WWII as we knew it.

This film did blow me away. I shall have to buy it on blu-ray and share it with as many people as I can convince to watch it.