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Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
June 23, 2012 - 7:30 pm

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Sweet revenge suffuses Quentin Tarantino’s astounding revisionist World War II epic. A passion project in preparation for over a decade, the finished film premiered at Cannes in 2009 as a co-production between the Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures. It displays the full flowering of the techniques and tropes Tarantino had burnished over many years as an international auteur: the iconoclastic use of established actors, the insistence on the surface beauty of cinema violence, and an uncanny grasp of entertainment value lurking in unlikely (or more properly, sacrosanct) places, which critics of the film have alternately found exhilarating and exasperating.

Expectedly reverential of cinema, Tarantino here offers his take on the subgenre of films that includes The Wild Bunch and Guns of Navarone about a group of male vigilantes on a dangerous mission. In an audacious genre twist, the badass avengers are a Jewish special forces unit. Assembled by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), they have a single mission: to infiltrate enemy territory and kill Nazis. The savagery and glee with which the so-called “Basterds” meet this challenge in the European badlands seems without precedent in stories of World War II. Likewise, the story of Shoshana Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young French cinema owner whose Jewish family is wiped out by sadistic German Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). When Nazi leaders plan a selfcongratulatory event in Shoshana’s theater, she plots a vengeful finale worthy of, well, Tarantino. Her plot converges with another by the Basterds, and the hellishly violent denouement offers one of the most fascinating, complicated episodes of catharsis in modern cinema.

Shot through with with painful cultural memories, infused with perverse humor and exuberantly observed bedlam, it became Tarantino’s most popular and profitable film to date, with worldwide grosses of more than $320 million. Featuring a magnificent international cast and a free-wheeling mash-up of genres and pop-cultural influences, Inglourious Basterds revels in the wealth of history, and film history, as reservoirs of narrative fantasy.

—Shannon Kelley

The Weinstein Company. Producer: Lawrence Bender. Screenwriter: Quentin Tarantino. Cinematographer: Robert Richardson. Editor: Sally Menke. Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger.

35mm, color, 152 min.