2-Disc Special Edition
Studio: Universal Studios
US Rating: Rated R – For Strong Graphic Violence, Language, And Brief Sexuality
Film Length: 2 Hours 33 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 – Enhanced for Widescreen TVs
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Release Date: December 15, 2009
Review Date: December 8, 2009
“We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with. Sound good?”
The Film: 4.5 out of 5
It’s easy to complain about the state of film today, with visual effects laden action films sacrificing plot for spectacle – but those films are counter-balanced by the exploration of the art of filmmaking that today’s greats; Nolan, Jackson, Thomas-Anderson, and Tarantino, along with a fortunate host of other talented auteurs, bring us each year. And with Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino continues earning the rightful praise of critics and fans alike.
The diabolical originality and excellence of Quentin Tarantino is manifested ever so clearly in what is perhaps his most accomplished cinematic exploit to date. Inglourious Basterds isn’t just superb; it is engrossing in ways that might come as somewhat of a surprise for many Tarantino fans. This film, his long-awaited ‘reimagining’ of 1978’s Quel maledetto treno blindato (The Inglorious Bastards) – which served merely as a thematic starting point rather than a plot inspiration, is a fascinating piece of entertaining cinema, abounding with riveting dialogue, sharply funny quirks, characters of intrigue, and a structure that gives the 150+ minute screen time a clever briskness and urgency.
Tarantino takes a band of American Jewish Nazi Hunters, led by a southern drawl endowed Brad Pitt, and places them deep behind enemy lines in World War II France on a mission to scalp as many Nazi’s as possible. That’s the basic premise sold via the marketing. What actually unfolds is entirely more engrossing and dialogue rich than a quip-filled fantasy of propagandized heroism and machismo might have suggestion. It is more than just a band of ‘good guys’ striking deep at the heart of the cruel military machine of Hitler’s SS soldiers, and their actions to eradicate the Jewish people at the behest of the crazed, odd-mustached dictator. Much, much more.
From the lengthy opening sequence, where we are introduced to the basterd’s main foil, the deliciously wicked and polite Colonel Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz), Tarantino reveals the cunning side of his approach to his characters, patiently unfolding conversations and allowing each of his characters to exist and express themselves in their own unique world; world’s that jigsaw perfectly into place with each other throughout the film experience. The beauty, simplicity and overt complexity of those conversations serve to ratchet up tension with surprising deftness. Speaking of that opening sequence, it is among the films finest. As Col. Landa, the sly fox of the SS gently discusses reputation and repudiation in the home of a French farmer, Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), he inhales all of the air in the room. Delicately, with certitude and confidence, he casually talks of the consequences of hiding Jews, and with unsettling precision, the “Jew Hunter” (as he is known), smirks and smiles the farmer’s fortitude completely from his person – and with glibness and nonchalance, sets about the ad-hoc execution of a cellar filled with hiding Jewish souls.
Tarantino, whose films are often lauded as much for their characters as their structure, constructs a strong linear storyline, split into pithily titled chapters that contribute to the fantasy and lore of his world. Throughout his story structure, he neatly sews links between chapters – but not in a clumsy, self-aware fashion fitting of lesser films, but as natural and as purposeful as he has ever been able to. And the canvass he has chosen, the gritty, war-ridden French backdrop against which his story of organized revenge plays out, is perhaps his most visually arresting. Director of Photography Robert Richardson finds the perfect blend of light and shadow in almost every scene. And, coupled with David Wasco’s production design, the look of the film achieves an authenticity despite the more raucous and fantastical elements at play. The period setting provides Tarantino with a palette he appears to have an extraordinary ease existing within, and as such, Inglourious Basterds becomes his most cinematic and unusually epic film.
Performances are uniformly excellent, with the exceedingly good Christoph Waltz serving up a remarkable performance as Col. Hans. Brad Pitt, as Lt. Aldo Raine, carries the Tennessee accent and swagger handily with him, and in perhaps the film’s most comedic of moments, sublimely nails his failed Italian accent to earn honest guffaws. Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus, the movie theater owner with a unique opportunity to retaliate against the occupying force of her native France, is perfect. She, along with her employee Marcel, played by Jacky Ido, becomes the most lynchpin characters of the entire film. As ‘The Basterds’; the crack team of Jewish-American soldiers on a mission to strike fear into the heart of the German High Command, and every Nazi Solider, are Eli Roth as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, Til Scweiger as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz, and B.J. Novak as Pfc. Smithson Utivich. Each are uniquely suited to their characters, and even Eli Roth, who is better known for his work behind the camera directing films such as Hostel and Cabin Fever, provides an effective, if at times uncomfortable, performance. And in a surprisingly unsung performance is Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark; beautiful, with a timelessness fitting of actresses of that era, Kruger handily makes her presence known in her scenes. The remaining cast, with supporting roles going to the likes of Mike Myers (in what can only be described as bold but inspired casting), Michael Fassbender as the stiff Brit Lt. Archie Hicox, and others, are all equal to the excellence of their fellow cast members.
Tarantino has crafted an extraordinary film. He is a filmmaker steeped in the crash and bang, as well as the art and craft, of making films. His wit, intelligence, and tongue-in-cheek prowess in screenwriting, and his masterful use of the camera to arm and disarm viewers, are almost unrivalled in cinema today. Inglourious Basterd’s enjoys a brilliant cadence, a bevy of spot-on performances, and a perfect blend of savagery, simplicity, and subtly. With brutality far more measured than you might expect, the real threat in the film is the spoken word – and Tarantino arms his characters with this weapon in a luring, lofty, laudable, and limitless fashion as to make Basterd’s a surefire Awards magnet.
The Video: 4.5 out of 5
Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Inglourious Basterds with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. The image is terrific. With exquisite detail and deep blacks, the image shines. The look of film is retained, colors are rich – especially the reds of the Nazi flags (and the radish color of Hitler’s face as he screams “Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!”), and flesh tones are natural. In summary, this is a great looking DVD and one of the best looking discs I have seen in quite some time.
The Sound: 4.5 out of 5
Inglourious Basterds comes with an English Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 in both Spanish and French, and is rambunctious and rowdy in all the right places. Tarantino delivers his films with a keen ear and an eclectic soundtrack; Basterds is no different, though more restrained. The moment David Bowie’s ‘Cat People’ rings through the speakers with a punch, the full power of the audio is realized. Even the gentle thud of the movie theaters fan, which pulses in the speakers when the camera passes by or just below it, help create an experience with the audio that elevates enjoyment of another winning Tarantino film.
The Extras: 4 out of 4
Extended & Alternate Scenes (11:26): And extended version of the Goebbels lunch scene, and extended version of the La Louisiane card game, and an alternate version of the scene where Nation’s Pride begins – Tarantino’s direction to the actors can be heard, making the first scene even more fascinating.
Nation’s Pride – The film within the film Inglourious Basterds can be seen it its entirety(6:10): Directed by Eli Roth (which, when you consider a Jewish filmmaker directing a piece of outright German Nazi propaganda an intriguing idea), this entire short film, while not enhanced for widescreen TV’s, is quite expertly pulled off and entertaining in its own right.
Domestic and International Trailers (5:34): The teaser, along with the U.S., International and Japanese trailers are available.
Roundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and film historian/critic Elvis Mitchell (30:44): Elvis Mitchell, host of KCRW’s “The Treatment” interviews Tarantino and Pitt, and the filmmaker and actor divulge experiences from the set, the approach to accomplishing this bold film, and Tarantino, achieving more brevity than normal, expresses his philosophy from making Basterds, and letting actors own the characters he creates.
The Making of Nation’s Pride(4:0): Eli has a little fun, as a vain German director, discussing making his masterpiece for Goebbels.
The Original Inglorious Bastards - a salute to the original 1978 film (7:38): Eli Roth leads an appreciation of the original film and its director, Enzo G. Castellari.
A Conversation with veteran actor Rod Taylor (6:44): This conversation with Rod Taylor, who portrays Winston Churchill in the film, has Rod sharing how Quentin Tarantino called him to be in his film, and how they seemed to connect.
Rod Taylor on Victoria Bitters, the Australian beer (3:20): Rod shares a funny story.
Quentin Tarantino’s Camera Angel (2:42): An odd extra with unusual and sometimes quite funny ways of calling preparation for scenes (the clapper loader).
Hi Sallys – Gag Reel (2:09): A series of ‘hello’s’ from Quentin to his longtime collaborator, Sally Menke, who serves as his film editor.
Film Poster Gallery Tour with Elvis Mitchell (10:59): Mitchell provides a interesting tour of film posters and history behind their inspiration in this film.
Inglourious Basterds Poster Gallery
Digital Copy of Inglourious Basterds
Final ThoughtsIn all honesty, Inglourious Basterds is entirely too rich, riveting and remarkable to review with any justice. Like all works of art, it is the sum of a million brush strokes, the amalgam of performance, script, lighting, direction, cinematography, music and more (the character call outs, the purposeful imperfections, the Nations Pride ‘movie within a movie’, and more)–each the sum of innumerable nuances that, together, yield a piece far greater than the sum of those parts. Each of Tarantino’s films have utilized an appreciation for the collective creation of film with remarkable results, but never quite so accomplished as Basterds. For every step into absurdity or outrageousness he takes, his bold abilities to defy expectation are quickly asserted, and his technique in the territory of craftsman takes root – and what results bends genres, splits opinion, and makes serious noise.
Inglourious Basterds is without a doubt one of the very best films of 2009; a masterful accomplishment in entertainment and a glorious adventure in the power of dialogue. Listen for the voices of Samuel Jackson and Harvey Kietel, and when you enjoy the effects in this film (seamless and serving of story), appreciate the talents of effects great John Dykstra. This film is brilliant. Highly Recommended!
Overall Score 4.5 out of 5