Inglorious Basterds

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            It is violent, brutal, and sadistic. It is also riveting and brilliant. It is Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds,” and it will leave you breathless. He has created a revenge fantasy for everyone who still wonders, 68 years after the Nazis occupied Paris, if something couldn’t have been done to stop the madman who came so close to destroying the western world.
            Tarantino’s mind is a storm tossed sky of ideas and contradictions. His intentions are serious, but still you will laugh. On the very edge of catastrophe, doomed characters discuss the history of German cinema. A deadly character suddenly morphs into20a cartoon of himself. Eccentric touches abound: a Sherlock Holmes pipe for “The Jew Hunter” who is, after all, a detective too; a Cinderella slipper with a ghastly symbolism. But look at what Tarantino has done to bring order to his eternal cerebral chaos.

            He presents his ideas in five chapters that become a tightly controlled structure where he can rumble randomly through his thoughts. In Chapter One we meet Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) the S.S. officer in charge of rounding up Jews who remain at large in France. In a superbly crafted opening scene, a purposeful Landa comes to the farm of Mr. La Padite (Denis Menochet) to interrogate him about rumors of Jewish families being hidden in the countryside. By the time this agonizing scene is over, we understand that Col. Landa never starts an interrogation without knowing all the answers in advance. This allows him to indulge himself with wordplay in several languages as he toys with the victims he has already targeted. For him, it is the ultimate game. He is a stew of sophistication and brutality. He is a silken savage.

            Chapter Two gives us Tennessee mountain man Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt,) a beast of a man whose assignment with his small band of eight Jewish soldiers is to kill Nazis. He is a rural version of Col. Landa, and easily his match in brains and sadism. Reaching for his Apache heritage, Raine orders his small band to scalp every victim, and this they do in graphic slow motion. The revenge has begun.

            In Chapters Three and Four we meet German actress and double agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) and theater owner Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent). Both will become primary figures in the cataclysmic last chapter, and both are perfectly cast. Characters and plot lines will converge in Chapter Five.

            Violence is a Tarantino specialty, and whenever he uses it, you can be sure it will be prolonged and exaggerated. Lest we miss his po ints, he delivers them in scenes of blazing color. But remember, this is a fantasy, and the violence is a horrific reminder that the reality was worse.

            We have been well prepared for the explosion of the ferocious terminal vengeance by watching the intricate preparations. This is Quentin Tarantino’s own Final Solution. It is his personal alternative ending to World War II.


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