Inglourious Basterds Review – Must See Film

by Dan on October 26, 2009


I’ve thought long and hard how I can give a meaningful review of this movie without giving away plot points, and have decided it’s impossible.  You want my quick review?

Definitely go see it.  It’s an uncommon movie that covers certain ground with more depth than anyone before.  It’s superb, and a required viewing for anybody.  Is it violent? Yes, but not excessively.

Come back and read the rest of this review when you’ve seen it.  The rest of this article is for people who won’t worry about plot points being spoiled.

Now going forwards…

Depending on how much you’ve been considering the issues of humanity before going into this film, you’re going to have a different interpretation of what you just went through.  Was it an enjoyable revenge fantasy?  A work of historical fiction with some delightful classlessness thrown in?

It’s a lot more than that.

Inglorious Bastards is about cruelty and sadism, but not of the enemy.  It’s about the cruelty that is in you and me.  It’s about how sadism doesn’t lie in the tormented soul of an evil or abused person who’s lost their way, but in every man, woman, and child alive.  It’s a movie about how this is part of our nature, and that it’s really ok.  It reminds me a bit of the book “The Dark Side of Light Chasers,” by Debbie Ford.

Quentin Tarantino has done a phenomenal job putting this together.  If there’s one group of people we can guiltlessly target our cruelty on, it’s the Nazis of the 1940’s.  They killed six million Jews, among millions of other murders.  They tried to take over the world and exterminate all who didn’t fit their model of the perfect human being.  They even conducted unconscionable medical experiments on live captives.

If there’s any violence in your soul at all, a Nazi is the one worthy recipient.

And this is why we can laugh when an empowered, well-muscled young Jew can beat a Nazi commander to death with a baseball bat.  We can giggle at Nazi captives fearing the torments to happen to them.  We let ourselves go, and take pleasure in the mission of the Inglorious Bastards.

Once Tarantino has allowed us to feel comfortable with this behavior, he picks up a mirror and shows us what we are.

The last part of the film focuses on a theater full of Nazis watching a reenactment of a recent WWII battle.  It’s a story of a young soldier in a sniper rifle killing three hundred enemy troops over three days.  Of course, Hitler, Goebbels, and the rest of the Germans in the theatre, break into laughter as the soldier shoots the enemies.

It’s a disgusting sight to watch, them enjoying the slaughter.  I don’t know if it’s simply the situation, or Tarantino instructed the cast to make the laughter look vile.   No matter what it is, you feel disdain and disgust at their laughs.

Then you realize you’ve been doing the same thing the past two hours.

The Nazis are watching their own version of Inglourious Basterds, only a much tamer version.  All the “victims” are enemy soldiers shooting at the soldier in the tower.  They’re not the Nazi captives rendered harmless at gunpoint, that we enjoyed being brutally killed.

This is a testament to Tarantino’s restraint as a director.  He could have made the movie so much more violent than it was, but chose just the right level.  There is not a single rape or attempted rape, though there are plenty of opportunities for scenes like that in the plot.

There is no torture shown of Jews, and when Jews do die, it’s practically off camera.  In the beginning, the Jews are shot through the floorboards, and we don’t even really see their corpses, let alone any bullets hit them.  A couple of members of the Inglorious Bastards squad die, but it’s in a gun fight, nothing sadistic.

All cruelty is reserved for the Nazis in the film.

What we do get on our end, however, is dread.

There are several scenes with such dread that you cannot imagine how you could possibly hold yourself together, had you been in the character’s situation.  The opening interview between Colonel Hans Landa and the dairy, keeps you in a painful suspense as the character is just being dragged through the fear of what’s to come.  The French celebrity actress, Bridget von Hammersmark, has a similar situation when she knows she’s being discovered by Landa.  There’s no way out, just an uncomfortable acceptance that she is at the mercy of someone who knows she would be merciless to him, had the positions been reversed.

I would say this is a must-see film for just about everyone. Highest possible recommendation.

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