(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Inglorious Basterds (2009)
One Sentence Plot Summary: The Basterds want to end the war and kill nazis while Col. Landa is on a hunt of his own.
Why It’s on the List: I had a feeling this movie was going to be high up on my list, but after this rewatch, it ended up even higher. Some like to accuse Quentin Tarantino of making the same film over and over again. While I would agree all of his characters sort of sound alike based on their use of his stylized dialogue and there is a certain over the top quality to nearly every performance.* Nonetheless, this has a very different feel compared to Pulp Fiction.
Inglorious Basterds is a far more patient film. There are multiple scenes of tension ending in tragic violence. The violence feels so much more visceral and significant as compared to even Pulp Fiction, where characters seemingly kill each other on a whim and it’s almost cartoon level. With the exception of the ending sequence, there aren’t a lot of other extended violent sequences. So much of the tension has to do with Christoph Waltz, who tows the line between charming and evil so well that if he ran for office, he’d be a great fascist (fitting for a movie of this sort).
There are still the cartoonish moments involving the Basterds themselves. Eli Roth’s Boston accent isn’t exactly subtle. Brad Pitt knows exactly what kind of movie he’s in and dials it up throughout. It’s great that while he nominally the lead, he’s not asked to carry the film. As much as people see this as Michael Fassbender’s break-out, he’s only on-screen for 30 minutes. We also get great performances from Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger. Kruger’s character gets treated rather terribly. Not only does she get shot in the leg and tortured, but she also gets choked out by Landa in s viciously brutal scene that is unwatchable in 2020 eyes.
You can see the relationship between this and Pulp Fiction. I would argue this is a much more mature film. More patient and with a little bit more to say. There’s a strong argument to be made this is Tarantino’s best. Part of this has to do with Sally Menke passing away shortly after this film and no longer editing out some of Tarantino’s indulgences. The pacing is extremely good despite the movie being about 2.5 hours long. The dialogue is as snappy as ever. What makes this work is the use of language and how the role of accents becomes an important plot point. Shocking an English teacher would love the linguistics of a movie eh?
*which makes Robert FUCKING Forrester’s performance in Jackie Brown all the more notable.
*The Weinstein Company released this.
*Tarantino’s hands are apparently the ones choking Diane Kruger and it’s gross.
*Some critics have argued that Jewish people who use the tactics seen in this film are as bad as the Nazis themselves. This is an argument but not one I feel strongly about.
MVP: Sally Menke has edited a wide range of films, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Heaven on Earth. She also edited all of Tarantino’s movies up until her passing in 2010. Although his movies were generally long, they were still well-paced and never felt egregiously long. The original cut of this movie was over three hours, and getting it down to this length is quite a feat. She did not win the Academy Award, losing out to The Hurt Locker. There is clearly something to female editors and their role in editing these “auteurist” directors. Menke was one of the best and it’s a shame she has not been able to continue on.
Best Performance: Christoph Waltz won an Academy Award and broke out in the same film, something that feels unprecedented. He went from an unknown in film to being a star. Even though he won another award for his work in Django Unchained, he has struggled with almost every other role. Whether it’s bad scripts or not being given the right opportunities, his career is a tough nut to crack. In this movie, he’s transcendent and steals the show right from the opening moments of the movie. In so many ways, this is Landa’s story and he dictates a lot of the action. Only a director with Tarantino’s cache could get away with giving this role to an unknown and have it work out so spectacularly.
Best Quote: “But I got a word of warning for all you would-be warriors. When you join my command, you take on debit. A debit you owe me personally. Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps. And I want my scalps. And all y’all will git me one hundred Nazi scalps, taken from the heads of one hundred dead Nazis. Or you will die tryin’.” – Aldo
Is there a sequel? No.
Check out Ben & Matt’s podcast review of this movie as part of There Will Be Movies