If Kill Bill was Spaghetti western-meets-kung fu, then Inglourious Basterds is Spaghetti western-meets- war. Any doubts are cleared by the typeface in the titles, the music (Ennio Morricone), and the name of the first chapter ‘Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France’. Apparently, this was supposed to be the name of the movie but director / writer Quentin Tarantino changed it. And, Tarantino has refused to explain the spelling, calling it artistic flourish.
The title works as a beacon into Tarantino’s alternate universe where nothing is as it seems, not even history. We, the audience, are more than willing to forgive him his trespasses as we are anyway too breathless from the hectic subversive ride he has taken us on.
The film begins in 1941 in Nazi-occupied France where an evil Nazi colonel is having a civilised conversation with a farmer suspected of harbouring Jews. That section, almost 20 minutes of dialogue, is practically a text book of Tarantino-style filmmaking with long takes, longer conversations, and killer tension as we wait for the violence to explode, which it does, in a dutifully mind-blowing manner.
The scene introduces us to two key players — the Nazi colonel Hans Landa and a young Jewish girl Shosanna, who escapes even as Landa kills her family. The next chapter introduces us to the Inglourious Basterds, a group of bloodthirsty American Jews led by Aldo Raine who are out to kill as many Nazis as they can, slowly and painfully.
Years go by and Shosanna has assumed a new identity — running a movie theatre in Paris. When she meets a movie crazy Nazi war hero and actor Frederick Zoller, who insists the premiere of his film be held in Shosanna’s theatre, she realises her chance of revenge is at hand.
The Basterds have a similar idea of doing away with the Nazi top brass, and with the help of German actor and double agent Bridget von Hammersmark land up at the premiere. What follows is the usual plotting and counterplotting with betrayals and double dealings galore.
The film has long chunks of dialogue that are not one bit boring. For instance, the dissertations on rats versus squirrels (reminds of you of the conversation on pigs in Pulp Fiction) and the word-based parlour game.
The tension is ratcheted to unbearable levels as the characters reveal fascinating things about themselves, their hopes and their fears. And, just when you think things are getting very profound on screen, Tarantino throws you an oddball. Sample the priceless conversation between Mike Meyers’ General and a film critic.
Acted brilliantly by everyone from Brad Pitt’s Raine and Diane Kruger’s Von Hammersmark to Melanie Laurent’s Shosanna, Christoph Waltz is a revelation as the reptilian Landa.
This is a movie Tarantino fans will adore. That is not to say the film cannot be enjoyed by those who are not hard-core fanboys. There is enough good cinema in this one to be gloriously enjoyed by all.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl
Storyline: The paths of a group of Americans soldiers and a Jewish girl cross while plotting to do away with the Nazis during a film premiere
Bottomline: Revenge is a dish best served Tarantino style