Monday, May 25, 2015

Inglourious Basterds Review

That opening scene. It may get lost in the shuffle for some as so much of the memorable action and comedic Tarantino whimsy arrives later in the film, but no matter how many times I see it I can't get over just how perfectly executed that first chapter is. Just two men sitting at a table talking, a testament to the power of patient storytelling. Could anyone pull off a scene like this besides Quentin Tarantino? It takes such a confident level of cool to even try it let alone succeed, and that word doesn't even do these 20 or so minutes justice. The first chapter of Inglourious Basterds isn't just a success, it's a god damn mini cinematic masterpiece. The way the camera flows through the room as Colonel Hans Landa methodically interrogates the French dairy farmer Pierre LaPadite. The polite way Landa approaches the situation, appearing as a friend rather than a foe even though we can smell the stench of dread immediately and we can feel the heat of machine gun fire before such a weapon is even exposed. 

We hang on every single word exchanged between these two men because we know they are all important, even if some seem to carry little or no significance whatsoever. When you encounter a Tarantino screenplay, you know it is something special. Not a single word will be wasted. Not a single word should be ignored because they all go down so smooth, like you are drinking the finest beer money can buy and you want to remember the flavor on your tongue long after the final drop hits it. 

When he enters the home and meets the entire LaPadite family, he knows. When he asks for a glass of milk, he knows. When he awkwardly asks to switch the spoken dialect in the room from French to English, he knows. As the camera pans down under the floor boards of the room and we see what hides beneath, we finally know exactly what he knows. Hans Landa may only have caught wind of rumors prior to his entering their home, but he is a always a few steps ahead because somehow, he knows. What might be the most powerful moment of all is the look in the eyes of Pierre LaPadite as we slowly move closer and closer to him and we can see the pain swelling up, the realization of the inevitable haunting him. He knows that Hans Landa knows and there is nothing he or we can do about it. We must sit and wait for the fury that will rain done upon those deemed enemies of the state. That innocent family that Pierre LaPadite promised to protect, those he granted shelter and safety to will soon be dead.

Not all of them though. While her family lay there like the vermin Hans Landa sees them as, one girl manages to avoid the carnage. Soaked in the blood of her loves ones and unable to see through tear soaked eyes, she runs. She runs as fast as she can and rather than pursue her to finish the job, Hans Landa watches her go.

"Au revoir, Shosanna!"

As the frame goes black and we move ahead to chapter two, you know instantly this isn't the last we have heard from Shosanna Dreyfus. It's a Tarantino film. This isn't an accurate depiction of facts from World War II. Inglourious Basterds is a revenge fantasy Nazi killin' fairy tale and by building up the first act so much I don't mean to give the idea that it all goes down hill from there. No, this movie is a 150 minute example of masterful, unforgettable cinema. Lt. Aldo Raine, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz and The Bear Jew. My personal introduction to Michael Fassbender as Lt. Archie Hicox and the moment I learned what the German three was during a sequence in a basement bar that, much like the first act, is something only Quentin could achieve without tripping over his own ambitions. Eating a strudel with the man who took everything you loved from you in an instant. A Nazi premiere hosted by a Shosanna Dreyfus, the face of Jewish vengeance. 

"Who wants to send a message to Germany?"

"I have a message for Germany."

Melanie Laurent in that red dress with the opening notes of David Bowie's "Cat People" playing over the images. Chapter Five: Revenge of the Giant Face. A plan that, if executed correctly, will leave every Nazi of importance dead inside one theater on the same night.

"Marcel...burn it down."

"Oui, Shosanna"

From the opening frame to one of the most satisfying conclusions I could dream of in a film, with everything in between being pretty much perfect. Inglourious Basterds is smart, sublime entertainment.



  1. "Jackie Brown" is my favorite Q.T. movie but INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is a thisclose runner up. Great review.

    1. Jackie Brown is a solid choice Derrick, no shame in that pick. A great film, and I'm glad to hear you love Basterds as well.

      Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words, appreciate it!