Quintin Tarantino’s latest violence-fest is an alternate history of World War Two, in which a former Southern moonshiner leads a group of Jewish American soldiers into Nazi-occupied France to wreak havoc among the German forces. In typical Tarantino fashion, the death and destruction inflicted upon the Nazis by these “Inglourious Basterds” (Tarantino’s misspellings appear to be intentional), is overly bloody, savage, and cruel (which, considering the victim’s of the Basterds work are Nazis, is of course appropriate). The film ends with a joyously bloody fate for many top-ranking Nazis.
The Southern moonshiner is Lt. Aldo Raine (the character’s name is a clear homage to actor Aldo Ray, who starred in many World War Two movies as a tough American soldier), played very well by Brad Pitt. Raine commands a squad of Jewish American soldiers who understandably enjoy the opportunity Raine gives them to kill Nazis. Lots and lots of Nazis, in fact.
At one point in the film, Raine and his Basterds are joined by a British officer Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), and given a mission, code-named Operation Kino (kino means cinema in German). Operation Kino’s goal is to blow up a cinema in Paris that is set to host the premier of Joseph Goebbels newest propaganda film, “Stolz der Nation” (“A Nation’s Pride”). The movie theater is expected to be filled with hundreds of top ranking Nazis, including Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, and Bormann. Unknown to the Basterds or the Allied planners, a second plot to destroy the Nazi-filled theater is hatched by the cinema owner herself, a French woman named Emmanuelle Mimieux (played by Mélanie Laurent). As shown in the opening sequence, this woman is the sole survivor of a massacre of a Jewish family by an infamous Nazi “Jew Hunter.” She also seeks vengeance against the Nazis, and plots a very dramatic and cinematic end for Hitler and his ilk.
For more detail, go see the movie. It is a typical Tarantino-fest with lots of violence, many pop-culture references (any spaghetti-western fan will enjoy the opening lines on the screen; “Once Upon a Time…In Nazi-Occupied France”), and a fantasy ending that made me want to cheer. Again, without giving out too much spoiler detail, I would love to see the reaction the climax of the film receives in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Oh, if World War Two had truly ended this way…
I originally planned to review this film with an eye to setting apart the Hollywood version of the war from reality, as many movies taking place in the past truly mess up historical detail, but it is clear that Tarantino created an obvious alternate universe that intentionally bears little resemblance to the unfortunate true history of World War Two. So I won’t bother pointing out the differences between the movie and reality.
Enjoy the film. If you don’t mind blood and guts, it is well worth the price of admission.