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Inglourious Basterds

Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France… 

Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Quentin Tarantino 
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent  
An image from Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s take on World War 2 continues his trend of lavish revenge tales with all the style one can expect from a director truly untamed by convention.

The story follows the exploits of the Basterds, a merciless squadron of Jewish Americans led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) in their terrorization of German soldiers across Nazi-Occupied France. At the same time, Shoshanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), the sole survivor of an SS raid three years prior, struggles through life in her new identity as the owner of a French cinema. When British Intelligence catches wind of a German film premiere taking place in Paris, secret agent Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is sent to team up with the Basterds in a plot to assassinate the high-ranking Nazis in attendance. Little do they know that the vengeful Shoshanna has been placed in charge of the event, and is hatching devastating plans of her own.

Despite the historical setting being far removed from Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill territory, the long drawn-out conversations, hilariously overblown characters and extreme violence are carried over in Tarantino’s unique, entertaining style. It doesn’t even matter that the titular Basterds barely have any screen time, with brilliant turns by Mike Myers as a pompous British major, and Diane Kruger as a sassy German actress turned double agent. However, arguably the film’s greatest pleasure lies in Christoph Waltz’s performance as the eerie SS general Hans Landa. The brilliant opening, in which he manipulates a farmer into exposing the Jews he is hiding, is a fantastic example of the film’s ability at building tension before breaking it in bombastic climax.

Overall, with Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino proves himself worthy of his reputation as one of today’s most influential filmmakers, providing a tale as satisfying as it is utterly compelling.

Joe Baker

A sardonic reimagining of events in the Second World War executed in trademark Tarantino fashion.

We follow the Basterds: a resistance faction of Jewish-American soldiers led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt), merciless in their pursuit of Nazi blood and unrefined in their methodology. They devise an assassination plot for Hitler at the premiere of his latest propaganda movie in a Parisian cinema. As it so happens, this cinema is also the hideout and proprietary of our young heroine, Shosanna (Laurent) – a French-Jewish girl determined to get revenge on a sinister SS colonel known as ‘The Jew Hunter’ (Waltz) for the murder of her family. Conveniently, the Basterds cross paths with Shosanna, pooling their resources in an effort to take down the Third Reich.

Over a decade in the making, Inglourious Basterds has been misted with much rumour and speculation. At times it seemed doubtful whether the project would ever be completed, with the meticulous writer-director fretting that his epic imaginings were too ambitious to put to celluloid. But after several re-writes and a leaked script, the final draft was put swiftly into production late last year ready to premiere at Cannes Film Festival in May, where it received huge praise. And rightly so: Basterds marks a triumphant return to form for the cinematic connoisseur following the underwhelming Death Proof in 2007.

Brimming with wry dialogue and glorified violence, the film’s content is as idiosyncratic of Tarantino’s now-familiar flair as the misspelt title itself. Highlights include Brad Pitt’s drawling Tennessee accent, a magnificent turn by Austrian film veteran Waltz and the audacious finale of an alternate history that is curiously hilarious.

Any qualms about Tarantino’s status as king of modern cinema are laid to rest as this confident entry in a saturated genre proves that he is definitely back in vogue.

Owen Rye

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Screenings of this film:

2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2009/2010 Autumn Term (35mm)
2012/2013 Summer Term (35mm)
2018/2019 Summer Term (35mm)