Inglourious Basterds: The Best Propaganda Film Ever Made

Eli Roth, mouth breather

Eli Roth, mouth breather

Plenty of press, critics and blogs have called Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino’s best film since Pulp Fiction, since Jackie Brown, since Kill Bill. In other words, it’s another great movie from Tarantino. That’s how I would do the press for this. “And another one!” Leave it up to Tarantino to craft an alternate history revenge story that manages to be an examination of revenge as well as a critique of the austere war films that seem designed only for awards bait.

What I feel has been underplayed is that Inglourious Basterds is a masterpiece of tension. So many scenes play out in slow builds, punctuated in sudden and quick bursts of violence, some so quick you haven’t a moment to process it before you realize, holy shit, is everybody dead?  The plot involves two central characters Shoshanna and Hans Landa, and the Basterds, led by Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine. Landa (Christoph Waltz), a member of the Nazi SS is also known as the Jew Hunter. Waltz’s performance is one for the books, playing Landa as smart, sadistic, and yet charming as hell. It is a hall of fame performance of villainy, on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker and Anthony Hopkins in Instinct(chill out, I’m kidding. I meant Red Dragon). IB opens with Landa entering the home of a French dairy farmer and genially explaining his reputation, and the possibility that this farmer is hiding Jews. Waltz portrays Landa with a charm and intelligence that characters of his ilk are not normally afforded.

Brad Pitt is equally charming as Raine, evoking a near parody southern accent in a performance clearly mirrored off those old leading man roles like Clark Gable and John Wayne. The rest of the Basterd’s aren’t given much screen time but in a way that’s because they’re the least interesting characters. They just want to kill Nazi’s and that’s about it. Which isn’t a bad thing. Eli Roth’s Jew Bear character has some great moments in the finale. While I’m not sold on Roth as an actor, he pretty much nailed it in the end where his mugging felt completely appropriate.

Melanie Laurent’s performance as Shoshanna is just another notch in Tarantino’s belt of great casting decisions. I don’t know how he finds these actors(including Waltz), and knows that they’ll deliver the best performances of their lives. But he does and they do. Laurent has a more complex performance, in that while her character is clearly seething with hatred and anger towards the Nazis, she has to keep it all inside, and present a demure and nearly staid front. This proves to be difficult when dealing with the ever persistent Fredrick Zoller, a guy who does not understand the word “No”.

The themes of vengence and secrecy are the two most prevelant in IB, most notably in the reality skewering finale, where we finally see Hitler and other various Nazi’s burned and blown to smithereens. I took special note to Hitler’s disintegrating face, which I took to mean, “Here is your anger and vengeance personified, you have become what you hate, feel any better?” As A.V. Club writer Noel Murray sharply mentioned on his Twitter, Inglourious Basterds is Nation’s Pride. I like thinking of IB as a rumination on revenge and how it consumes these characters as well as the fact that no one in the film can hide their true self, and if they try to they’re either shot or have it carved into their head.

Quentin Tarantino (and The Weinstein Company trailer editors) pulled a pretty good one, promising a shallow romp of violence and instead delivering a multilayer-ed period piece of self critiquing propaganda. That’s the kind of trick I can appreciate.


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5 Responses to “Inglourious Basterds: The Best Propaganda Film Ever Made”

  1. Justin Says:

    Solid, brothaman. Real solid.

  2. McCarty Says:

    I cannot say for certain at this time, but after only one viewing, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is neck-and-neck with JACKIE BROWN as my favorite QT movie.

    It’s nice that you mention the use of tension in the movie. I found IB to be more tense than even THE HURT LOCKER, and really any other film I can think of in recent memory.

    With that said, I must give your review a “D-” (EW-style, yo) for failing to mention Diane Kruger and her hotness. I could listen to her speak German to me all goddamn day.

    • Lorin Says:

      I think you overrate Kruger a bit. Of course, I only have one viewing of Troy under my belt, as opposed to what I can only assume is many National Treasure viewings. She’s good in this movie. There. If she’s really that great, why isn’t she your first choice for Catwoman? Check and mate.

      • McCarty Says:

        You appear to assume I was referring to her acting ability. I was not. I was only referring to her immense hotness. And I don’t recall making any mention of my choice for Catwoman, though I certainly would not be opposed to a Kruger-as-Catwoman scenario.

  3. Lorin Says:

    She’s not that hot. Relax.

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