I'll save everyone the problem of waiting for a plot spoiler, so here it is: The Japanese win at the end of the movie. And that ending is really really boring.
Seriously though, Inglourious Basterds
is a film sure to appeal to many history buffs and wargamers. A tour de force from the inimitable Quentin Tarantino
, the leading practitioner of intelligent action movies, it is part spaghetti western
film (with an almost all-white cast, magically), crossed with The Dirty Dozen
Much has been made by critics about the high level of violence, and truly, Inglourious Basterds
is a violent movie, in which mutilation and scalping are perfectly routine. Add to that death by fire, explosion, gunshots, and the odd baseball bat applied to the head.
This is not for the squeamish. But if you like to see National Socialists die, imaginatively and in wholesale quantities, it is certainly the movie for you.
Nor is Inglourious Basterds
a movie for people with short attention spans. It is almost two and a half hours long, and much of that time is taken up with French and German dialogue, with English subtitles. In addition, it has several important backstories and plot diversions.
Maybe the biggest disappointment is that Brad Pitt
, despite top billing, spends rather little time on the screen as Lt. Aldo "Apache" Raine. An officer devoted to killing Nazis and collecting scalps as trophies, he is a single-minded smiling killer with a Tennessee mountain accent that defies both belief and serious examination. Despite his lethal obsessions, given free rein through his leadership of equally obsessed Jewish soldiers, his performance is one of black comedy, and even at the most tense moments he looks as though he is about to burst out laughing at some private joke.
Horror director and actor Eli Roth
is likewise memorable as Donnie Donnewitz, known to the the Germans as "the Bear Jew," whose favorite means of execution happens to be a Louisville Slugger.
However, if there is an Academy Award for any of the actors, it is probably going to be for Best Supporting Actor, and engraved with the name of Christolph Waltz
. As SS officer Hans Landa, he is at once urbane, cultured, perceptive, and one of the absolutely most slimy creatures on any screen. Playing a Nazi True Believer bearing the nickname "The Jew Hunter" in a way that blends such moral repulsiveness with a measure of Tarantinoesque black humor is a tall order for any actor, but Waltz carries it off brilliantly.
One might consider this possibly an exclusive vehicle for male actors. Yet Mélanie Laurent
turns in a show-stealing performance as the vengeance-minded victim of the Nazis and Diane Kruger
provides of a mixture of ambiguous loyalty and playfulness as a glamorous German actress with a secret or two.
So once a time in German-occupied France... Mr. Tarantino had a vision.
Wargamers will no doubt wonder how well history is reflected in Inglourious Basterds
. The answer is that the history is about as valid as the spelling of the movie's title. Be advised, if you want accurate military history, go someplace else than Quentin Tarantino's World War II. Indeed, it has even less historical validity than 300
Still, Inglourious Basterds
is well worth the time and money to see it on a big screen.
I rank it three on a scale of five dead Nazis.