Inglourious Basterds Blu-ray: Review By Brian Gallagher

It's a jaw-dropping, mesmerizing war thriller that never fails to entertain on levels that both the summer movie fan and arthouse cinefile will truly appreciate.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Practically everything. An incredible film experience on every possible level.
Some of the special features go a lot longer than need be, and some are rather bizarre as well.
(Reviewer's Note: This is the exact same review that I posted before the film's theatrical run. I did watch the film again, to see if it was in fact still as amazing as I thought it was in the theater the second time around and, in fact, it is, hence, no real need to change my review. Carry on.)

Love him or hate him, you can't deny the impact that Quentin Tarantino has had on the film industry since bursting onto the national scene in 1994 with Pulp Fiction. Always a topic of conversation with his bizarre interviews, obscure film references and even his foot fetish, Tarantino has never been one to shy away from controversy, and he certainly doesn't shy away from anything with his new film Inglourious Basterds, an amazing World War II film with Tarantino's unique flair, and the Tarantino film Tarantino fans have been waiting for.

While his earlier films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and even True Romance, which he wrote but didn't direct, certainly gave birth to QT's unique narrative, it seems that after Pulp Fiction that he was transferring that style to other genres and types of stories. His Pulp Fiction follow-up, Jackie Brown, was the QT take on an Elmore Leonard story, Kill Bill was his martial-arts/action/revenge epic and Death Proof was his homage to the grindhouse genre. While I certainly do love all of those films, and you can easily say that Inglourious Basterds (don't try to figure out the misspelling, because he isn't saying) is Tarantino's take on a World War II story, it's QT's first film since Pulp Fiction that truly and wholly looks and feels like a genuine Quentin Tarantino film, and god-damn is it amazing.

This film comes back to the disjointed narrative that he introduced in Pulp Fiction, as the film is told in a series of five chapters, the first of which is entitled "Once Upon a Time In... Nazi-Occupied France," which QT was originally pondering titling the film. Here we meet Colonel Hans Landa (the AMAZING Christoph Waltz), or as he's known throughout France, "The Jew Hunter," as he pays a visit to the family of Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet). Those naughty LaPadite's are harboring Jewish fugitives and Landa knows that the Dreyfus family is hiding somewhere on his property. Young Shoshana Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) manages to escape unscathed, resurfacing years later as the owner of a movie house in Paris...but we get to all of that later. After Shoshana's escape we're introduced to the Basterds, all lined up at attention and getting a rundown of this new team from their fearless leader, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who is assembling this team of Jewish-American soldiers for one purpose and one purpose only: "killin' Nazi's." As a part of the Basterds' plan, they enlist the help of a German movie star/double agent Bridget von Hammersmark (the lovely Diane Kruger) to get them into a film premiere in Paris, a film that celebrates a new Nazi hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) who killed hundreds of enemy soldiers in a three-day siege - a premiere that will be attended by several top-ranking Third Reich officials. As it turns out, Zoller insists on having the premiere in the quaint theater owned by a woman he's now smitten with... Shoshana Dreyfus... who has a trick or two up her sleeve as well... and that's about all I can say.

It was said that Tarantino had been working on this script for a decade, and with all the logistics and twists and turns that go on in this film, I can truly see why. Despite it being a war film, it's almost more of a thriller than anything, as QT has us hanging on every well-placed (if not long-winded) word since we know that anything can happen at any moment. Sure, people will bitch that this is too long (two hours and 32 minutes) or too talky or too violent, but... have you ever SEEN a Tarantino film? Long and talky films are kind of his bag (baby) and I don't expect anything less from QT. As far as the violence, well that's just hogwash because as "violent" as his films are, do you really actually SEE the violence? No. His brilliant use of cutaways just shows us the aftermath of said violence it's quite a thing to see. His script, by far the best he's ever written, is thoroughly engaging and complex, essentially creating an alternate World War II reality where we see the likes of historical figures like Winston Churchill and The Third Reich's Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler interacting with these fictional characters. Lets just put it this way, if World War II ended like this, kids would be glued to the history texts. As complex as the film is, it's still fraught with the fantastic dialogue and incredible characters that makes every actor from here to Strausbourg want to work with him... and in this film in particular, that's pretty much what we get with this outstanding ensemble cast.

Casting-wise, Tarantino has really outdone himself and, like he does in every film, manages to showcase an actor we have either previously been unaware of or might have forgotten (See: Michael Madsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Daryl Hannah, Zoe Bell). With Inglourious Basterds, that actor is the brilliant Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, who portrays "The Jew Hunter" Colonel Hans Landa. Waltz took home the award for Best Actor at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of Landa and this BETTER be just the first of many many accolades showered upon Waltz for his towering performance. People are screaming Oscar already for Waltz, and in a year where Oscar buzz has been rather absent for so late in the year, I'd have to join that screaming chorus as well, because we haven't seen a performance this amazing all year, and I have doubts that we will see a performance equal to Waltz's for the rest of the year. Waltz brings an air of creepy confidence to Hans Landa, a man who thinks like the Jews so he can hunt them, and every millisecond he's on screen is a sheer spectacle to behold. The irony of Waltz's incredible praise from this film is that the equally-amazing performance from Brad Pitt is almost unsung in comparison. I have long been a fan of Pitt, with the diversity of the projects he chooses despite being such a huge star and the incredible performances he gives, which are outshined by all the tabloid junk about Brangelina, but Aldo Raine just might be Pitt's best performance to date. Pitt has long displayed the ability to tackle tricky dialogue (one word: Pikey...), and his turn in Basterds could be his doctoral thesis on the subject. Pitt simply shines as the exuberant hillbilly Raine, immersing himself in the Southern dialect and mannerisms that make his performance so amazing. Melanie Laurent also delivers a performance that deserves to be noticed as the sublimely confident Shoshana Dreyfus, who is fueled by the massacre of her family years ago. While her performance doesn't seem as demanding as most here, she plays the role with a subtle authority that is fascinating to watch.

While Waltz, Pitt and Laurent are the top dogs here, this ensemble cast is loaded with immense talent and there really isn't a weak link in the cast. Director/actor Eli Roth is wonderful as Donny Donowitz (a.k.a. Donny the Jew Bear), the crazed misfit of the group that, in certain, very subtle ways, almost plays as a Jewish, Nazi-killing version of The Gimp in Pulp Fiction. Diane Kruger is wonderful as Bridget von Hammersmark, Daniel Bruhl is great as the Nazi hero Frederick Zoller, Michael Fassbender shines as the British undercover Basterd Archie Hicox, B.J. Novak shows he's much more than The Office as "The Little Man" Smithson Utivich and, what is one of the more unsung turns here, German actor Til Schweiger is simply wonderful as Hugo Stiglitz, a brutal Nazi that turned against the Reich and started killing Nazi's on his own, before the Basterds found him. We also get a slew of wonderful smaller turns from the likes of Samm Levine and Paul Rust as the least-visible Basterds Hirschberg and Kagan, QT regular Julie Dreyfus (no, not Julie Louis-Dreyfus) as Francesca Mondino, Omar Doom as Basterd Omar Ulmer, August Diehl as Major Hellstrom, Sylvester Groth and Martin Wuttke as Goebbels and Hitler and even Mike Myers in a smashing cameo turn as British General Ed Fenech. This is just such an awesome ensemble cast, folks.

For all that Quentin Tarantino has done, he has never had a summer film, and Inglourious Basterds, in many ways, is Tarantino's version of a blockbuster summer release. It also just so happens to be Quentin Tarantino's best film to date and on the VERY short list of one of the very best films of 2009. It's a jaw-dropping, mesmerizing war thriller that never fails to entertain on levels that both the summer movie fan and arthouse cinefile will truly appreciate.
The first thing we get on this wonderful two-disc set are some Extended and Alternate Scenes. Sadly we only get three here, but I'm honestly surprised there is that many, due to the nature of this incredibly efficient production - made famous by Tarantino's guarantee at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival that he would return a year later with this film, despite not even having a finished script yet. The fact that not only did he deliver a film of this immense magnitude, from literally unfinished script to screen in a year is something there aren't even enough superlatives to describe. OK, time to digress from that tangent... We get three scenes here - an extended scene of Zoller's lunch with Goebbels, an extended version of the "La Louisiane Card Game" (that game they play with the cards on their foreheads) and an alternate version of the opening of Nation's Pride. The first scene is pretty much the same but in the film, when Goebbels asks her what German films she has, and he quickly cuts to Landa arriving, in this scene, we get a few minutes with Shoshana explaining that she plays the German classics... before Goebbels took over, and not his films. It's a pretty slick scene, that adds about two and a half minutes to the scene before Landa arrives, but I can see why it was removed, since it's not entirely necessary and doesn't really move the story forward. The second one, with the Nazi soldiers playing the "La Louisiane" doesn't really add a whole lot at all, actually, maybe less than a minute and the third one shows us a bit of the opening parts of Nation's Pride, which humorously enough shows us a take on the Star Wars crawl... only in reverse... or inverse, perhaps. Instead of the crawl moving away from the screen, it moves toward the screen. Crazy. I actually wish they would've kept this one in the film, since it isn't that long at all and is a fun little nod.

Next up, fittingly enough, is Nation's Pride, the full feature, where we do see that crawl in full effect. It's actually a lot funnier than I expected, but still a damn solid piece of filmmaking from Eli Roth. It certainly has the period feel and this seven-minute film is quite an entertaining short piece. I was always told that this full piece on the DVD would not necessarily be a full, coherent short film, but it has much more of a dramatic arc than I thought it did and it feels like a damn cohesive short piece to me. Bravo, Eli Roth and Daniel Bruhl, for a job well done!

Next up we get a Roundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and film critic Elvis Mitchell. They talked a lot about the break-neck pacing of the shooting schedule and how Brad just naturally finds his characters and they both go back and forth with the glad-handing a bit, but it was interesting to learn that one of the big things that Pitt did that was the biggest pleasant surprise was, completely different from how he envisioned it, was how he said "Bonjourno," which was a hilarious part. They also talk about the amazing German screening they had, that was apparently electrifying to be in that screening - with Germans actually enjoying a World War II movie. This does go pretty long at just over a half hour, but we do get some pretty damn interesting stuff here and it's worth a watch, even with a lot of the glad-handing that's going on here.

The Making of Nation's Pride is next and... hmm. While we know Eli Roth directed this movie-within-a-movie, this making-of thing has Roth also playing whoever was the fictional director of the film, whose name is Alois von Eichberg. We also hear from Sylvester Groth, in character as Joseph Goebbels, talking about Nation's Pride as the best film he's produced, etc. etc. We also see Julie Dreyfus as Francesca Mondino talking about the film and Daniel Bruhl as Frederick Zoller. I really don't know what Roth was trying to do with this really weird accent here, but it is funny when he says that he is going to get Hitler to give a quote for the movie poster. Anyway, it's only four minutes long, but it's probably skippable.

The Original Inglorious Basterds talks a bit about Enzo G. Castellari, who directed Inglourious Basterds in 1978 and was approached by Tarantino to borrow the name for his film - apparently with two conditions, one that he had a cameo in QT's film and two that he got to yell, "Fire!" which is the same line he said at the beginning of his Bastards film. We hear from Eli Roth, who is another big Castellari fan, who talked about Castellari's involvement in QT's flick and we also hear from Bo Svenson, who was the star of the original Bastards flick. We also see what kind of serves as a trailer for the original, I guess, or more of an extended trailer that looks pretty cool. The whole feature runs just over seven minutes and it's worth a look if you want to learn more about the original Inglorious Bastards - the ones that spell the title right.

Next up is A Conversation With Rod Taylor, the classic actor who plays Winston Churchill, and how he came to play the part and we get some interesting tidbits about Tarantino himself as well. Apparently whenever he asks for another take he goes, "Why? Because we love making movies!" Taylor talks about the other directors he has worked with, like John Huston and Alfred Hitchc*ck, and how Tarantino is so distinct from other filmmakers. It's about six and a half minutes long and it's pretty cool to see an actor who has worked with such classic directors of yesteryear compare those filmmakers with QT. This is worth checking out as well.

Next is Rod Taylor on Victoria Bitter, which has Taylor talking about a bizarre story about Victoria Bitter, an Australian beer that they don't export and somehow Tarantino got a hold of. He has a few other brief, bizarre stories as well, like how QT would show Taylor's movies at night to the crew and a story about an autographed picture Taylor sent him. Very bizarre, but it's only three minutes long.

Quentin Tarantino's Camera Angel which is a very bizarre montage of the Tarantino's girl that calls the camera mark and takes in a very unusual way. Let's say, for instance, it was take 28BC, she would say "28 British Columbia" or something else that started with a B and a C. It's actually kind of entertaining, seeing how the actors react to these bizarre calls, sometimes with the actors almost losing it completely. It's only a few minutes long as well here, so check it out.

Hi Sallys is another bizarre feature that show another bizarre ritual Tarantino has with his longtime editor, Sally Menke, who has cut every one of Tarantino's films. Apparently he gets people to say "Hi Sally" into the camera after a take, or during a botched take and this two-minute feature just shows various people on the set giving their "Hi Sally's" to the camera. An awe-inspiring feature? Not really, but it does show you a tiny little part of QT's routine on the set and you really just get a slice of life on a Tarantino set here, no matter how small a slice it is.

The next one is Film Poster Gallery Tour With Elvis Mitchell, which shows us a lot of these actual old-school propaganda film posters that were inspired by the posters created for the Nation's Pride film-within-a-film. This goes a bit too long as well, as I doubt we really need an 11-minute featurette on this aspect of the movie at all.

The last thing we get is an Inglourious Basterds Poster Gallery that shows a number of one-sheets, quads and international posters from all over the globe. What's really REALL weird are the Japan posters that are set in a BRIGHT YELLOW, for whatever reason that may be for. Weird.
The film is presented in the anamorphic widescreen format, in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. While it offers a smaller viewing area, you can truly see the scope of Tarantino's vision with more clarity in this format.
The sound is presented in the Dolby Digital 5.1 format.
Like the Basterds themselves, the packaging is nothing too flashy, but rather effective. The front of this two-disc packaging just has a simple title card above an image of Donny the Jew Bear's bat with a Nazi helmet dangling at the strap. The back has a nice critic quote, a headshot of Pitt as Aldo Raine, a brief synopsis, solid special feature listing, three small images from the film and the billing block and tech specs.
I don't normally like to give away a final line of a movie, but it seems fitting here. The final line of the film - "I think this just might be my masterpiece" - is a beautifully crafted double-entendre, both a fitting line to end a film, and a fitting statement by Tarantino on the film as a whole. Inglourious Basterds IS Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece and this astounding film is a truly remarkable achievement.

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Comments (3)

  1. Brian Gallagher

    Yeah, Paolo. Thanks for catching that. I fixed it up. Good eye.

    5 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  2. Paolo Sardinas

    I think for "The Good" section you meant to write "practically everything"? It looks like "practically nothing".

    5 years agoby @sardinasFlag

  3. ed_wood

    One of the best of the year.

    5 years agoby @ed-woodFlag