Inglourious Basterds (Review)

In movies, books, video games, and TV shows, there are always three things that can be killed without a hint of moral ambiguity: zombies, robots, and Nazis.  And I’ll tell you right now, Inglorious Basterds has a distinct lack of both zombies and robots.

Inglourious Basterds tells the story of a group of Jewish soldiers, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who are out to kill and scalp as many Nazis as they can on a journey to ultimately assassinate the Nazi higher-ups.  This mission coincides with the revenge plot of a young French-Jewish woman named Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), who saw Nazis led by Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) murder her family.

Quentin Tarantino is known for both stylishness and violence, and Inglorious Basterds is no exception.  Do you want to see Nazis getting beaten to death with a bat?  It happens.  Or would you rather see a Nazi getting a swastika carved into his forehead?  It happens.  Quentin Tarantino is like the Leonardo da Vinci of fictional Nazi murder.  But alongside the ludicrous violence, the film is suffused with an incredibly endearing sense of humor.  Lt. Aldo Raine trying (and failing) to convincingly speak Italian and a Nazi saying, “That’s a bingo!” aren’t going to have people in tears laughing, but they contribute to Inglourious Basterds being a charming bloodbath.

It’s also worth noting that the acting is done very well.  Brad Pitt really hams it up as Lt. Aldo Raine, but the silliness adds to the movie’s aforementioned charm, and Eli Roth is great as Donny Donowitz, known colloquially as “The Bear Jew.”  Christoph Waltz does an excellent job as Col. Hans Landa, and Mélanie Laurent’s Shosanna and her mission of vengeance helps keep the plot moving even when Nazis aren’t being killed left and right.  Her revenge story also injects a bit of seriousness into Inglorious Basterds, and the film is better for it.

That said, Inglourious Basterds isn’t quite perfect.  Compared to other films by Quentin Tarantino, like Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds seems unfocused at times.  While Shosanna’s quest for revenge helps to push the plot forward, there are still segments of the film that seem to drag on without contributing much to the film’s story.  This is compounded by issues with the writing.  While Inglourious Basterds has a great sense of humor, it just doesn’t quite match Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill in terms of cleverness.

Overall, Inglourious Basterds is a great movie, with some caveats.  Held up against its peers,Inglourious Basterds feels like a jack of all trades, but a master of none.  There’s solid acting, fantastic music, great humor, and some excellent and violent action, but the parts don’t always feel like they’re meshing perfectly.  And as far as revenge films go, there are better ones out there.  If you haven’t seen Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction, I’d recommend those over Inglourious Basterds.  Also, if you’re a Nazi, I suspect that you might find Ingorious Basterds a bit offensive.  But if you’re a non-Nazi who’s seen Kill Bill and Pulp
Fiction, and if you’re hankering for a Tarantino film, give Ingorious Basterds a watch.  It might not be perfect, but it’s still a fun ride.


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