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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Paul Rust
Brad Pitt
Eli Roth
B J Novak
Samm Levine
Diane Kruger
Michael Fassbender
Christoph Waltz.
Directors
Quentin Tarantino.
Screenwriters
Quentin Tarantino.
Running Time
147 minutes

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Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino remakes World War II


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Plot
1944, Nazi-Occupied France. Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) and his Basterds, a squadron of ruthless Jewish soldiers, must help the Allies try to wipe out the German High Command at a film premiere. The cinema, however, is owned by a vengeful Jewish survivor (Laurent) with plans of her own.


Review
Inglourious Basterds
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By now, you’d think that we’d have become accustomed to Quentin Tarantino pulling the rug out from under our feet. After all, this is the man who made his name with a heist flick that didn’t actually have a heist in it.

Yet within the first five minutes of Inglourious Basterds, it’s clear that he’s done it again. Tarantino’s been talking about his World War II action movie for nigh on a decade now, but the reality is very different from the rootin’, tootin’, cigar-chompin’ Where Eagles Dare/Dirty Dozen-style shoot-’em-up that had once, if you believe all you read, been tailored for Arnie and Sly. But as the movie unfolds with a 20-minute conversation between a French farmer who may or may not be sheltering Jews, and Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a charming yet callous Nazi officer nicknamed ‘The Jew Hunter’, it becomes quickly apparent that Tarantino’s flipped a bloody middle finger at convention.

Yet that’s Inglourious Basterds all over. As enjoyably idiosyncratic as the spelling of its title would suggest, it’s a film that takes devilish delight in feinting left when it looks like it might go right. Characters are introduced, pomped and circumstanced, and then almost glibly despatched; the Basterds themselves barely appear, while Brad Pitt, the ostensible lead, shows up for only three of the movie’s five chapters and doesn’t fire a single shot in anger; while history is adhered to with all the accuracy of an MP’s expenses claim.

As ever with Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds reveals a director in love with the sound of his characters’ voices — sometimes to a fault, as in the third chapter, German Night In Paris, which is packed with dense conversations at the expense of dramatic momentum. But, after the self-indulgent riffing of Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds is focused and sharp.

Take that opening scene, for example, in which Landa toys with his prey like, to use his own analogy, a hawk with a rat. Or, more pertinently, the lengthy fourth chapter scene set in a French bar, La Louisiane, in which British officer Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), two Basterds and German double-agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) have to outwit a suspicious Gestapo officer (August Diehl).

In both these scenes, Tarantino masterfully transfers control from character to character, using only his dialogue, filled with unspoken implications and threatening subtext. The results are almost unbearably tense and as suspenseful as anything he’s done in his career. Never mind big bangs and blazing machine guns — in a Tarantino film, this is where the action is.

And his cast, from Pitt down, responds in kind, whether they’re handling the one-liners or speeches in English, French, German or even Italian. There are standouts, of course. Pitt, in a role that again defies expectations, is often hilarious, attacking some wonderful dialogue in a thick-as-molasses Kentucky accent that itself might require subtitles from time to time. Fassbender, stepping into the role of Hicox after Simon Pegg dropped out, seizes the opportunity gladly, injecting Hicox with the perfect blend of old-style movie-star charm (the character was based in part on George Sanders) and a tougher, rugged edge that deserves to make him a bigger star. But the film belongs to Waltz, who won the Best Actor award in Cannes, and who should be a shoo-in, even this far out, for a Best Supporting Actor nod at next year's Oscars.

The role of Landa was so tough to fill that Tarantino claims he'd have abandoned the production entirely had Christoph not Waltzed through his door. Not only is Landa multilingual, but he's an enormously complex creation, so much more than a typical movie Nazi. Cruel, confident, calculating and often contradictory (watch how his attitude towards his Jew Hunter nickname changes, depending on the company he keeps), Landa has many of the film's best lines and moments, and is much-missed when he's not around. Thankfully, Tarantino - perhaps sensing that he was onto a good thing - keeps that state of affairs to a minimum.

And all throughout it, like Pitt's Raine, Landa is very funny, a charming and somewhat effete presence who delights in his grasp of other cultures ("That's a bingo!") and his destabilising effect on others. And that's another surprising element here - Inglourious Basterds is often very funny. In fact, as the movie races towards its climax, it gets funnier and funnier even as characters start hitting the ground like flies. And the ending itself is so bold and so outrageous that it's hard not to laugh at Tarantino's audacity.

In Cannes, the movie's climax split critics, with some offended by Tarantino's contrivances. But the big clue here lies in the opening title card, which simply states, "Once Upon A Time...in Nazi-Occupied France."

From the off, with that one phrase, Tarantino makes it clear that Inglourious Basterds will not be taking the austere, reverent approach of a Schindler's List. Instead, this is a fairy tale, a 'what if...?' story that takes place in a typically Tarantino 'movie-movie' universe. After all, let's not forget that Tarantino had Uma Thurman draw a box on the screen in Pulp Fiction, and that Basterds is replete with those touches, from on-screen graphics to a wonderfully eclectic soundtrack that revels in anachronisms like Bowie's Cat People (Putting Out Fire).

That song, like every other piece of music in the film, is taken from another movie, with Ennio Morricone and Dimitri Tiomkin cuts featuring prominently. Of course, that's not entirely unusual - after all, Tarantino is a movie magpie, and his work has always been informed by the tropes and iconography of other movies. Basterds, for example, is full of references to Italian cinema, particularly Spaghetti Westerns, while there's an element of cheekiness about his decision to cast Mike Myers as an English general with more than a hint of Austin Powers about him.

Ultimately, though, it's about the appeal and power of cinema to do good, to shape history, to change things for the better as Tarantino pits the forces of good - including a film critic, a cinema owner and a movie star - against the vile Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, and his new protege, Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). And as events play themselves out, amidst scenes of fire, chaos, carnage and a haunting image of a laughing face projected onto roiling clouds of smoke, it's hard not to imagine Tarantino sighing contentedly as he introduces his final, most romantic notion: a director playing God.


Verdict
With a confidence typical of its director, the last line of Inglourious Basterds is, “This might just be my masterpiece.” While that may not be true, this is an often dazzling movie that sees QT back on exhilarating form.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Inglourious Basterds
Empire Star Rating

Inglourious Basterds

Its only for the QT fans, but Inglourious Basterds is a supurb and engaging good time that flicks off history, showcases its brillant cast, presents a memorable narrative, and delivers bloody fun. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 02:35, 17 June 2012 | Report This Post


Inglourious Basterds Review

A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:37, 03 March 2012 | Report This Post


Strange, arty and confident...

After seeing this film I wasnt convinced, I found it at times frustratingly talky or far too surreal. However you couldnt help but deny its uniqueness, bloodthirsty charm and tarantino's ambitious and unexpected plot twist. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 00:50, 19 October 2011 | Report This Post


Strange, arty and confident...

After seeing this film I wasnt convinced, I found it at times frustratingly talky or far too surreal. However you couldnt help but deny its uniqueness, bloodthirsty charm and tarantino's ambitious and unexpected plot twist. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 00:50, 19 October 2011 | Report This Post


Avoid if you like your characters to evolve -

Another childish film from the so called savior of modern American cinema - His films are now so utterly dreadful only his die hard fan boy's (Tarantino can do no wrong) will like it - ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 15:47, 15 June 2011 | Report This Post


Another QT masterpiece

At first, I was angry that empire claimed that he was off form (since he has yet to make a bad film in my eyes) then i looked closer and realised that you meant he hadn't made another masterpiece like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction in all this time. Well Inglourious Basterds can proudly sit next to them in the QT quality scale, though Pulp Fiction is the stand-out. This film was absolute heaven for me, since I am a HUGE QT fan. Very well-written, skillfully directed, with wonderfully drawn c... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lewistarantino at 01:11, 07 April 2011 | Report This Post


TARANTINO'S MIDDLE FINGER TO HISTORY!

Quentin Tarantino's movies are always easy to notice; quirky and smooth dialogue accompanied by rather unusual choices in music. The soundtrack does distract a little but this is his finest since Pulp Fiction and sees extraordinary performances from Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt, the latter of which is hilarious. Got to love Tarantino's daring to come up with this. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DMeister at 02:55, 24 March 2011 | Report This Post


Tarantino is Back!

Tarantino's postmodern homage to the power of film is, as the last line of the proposes, his masterpiece. Tarantino's signature extended dialogue scenes are here with purpose, His direction is controlled but not restrained and the acting is superb. Tarantino has upped his game, following this will be difficult ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bnicholson50 at 15:39, 25 October 2010 | Report This Post


Behind Enemy Lines- Tarantino Style

This is nothing more than another glowing star on Tarantino's record. LLQT, the greatest filmmaker of all time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 17:44, 21 September 2010 | Report This Post


QT at his best. Perfect cinema.

Oh no theyve changed history . . . is what I always here about Inglourious Basterds. And that theres not enough action. Well yes theyve changes history and the film does lack action, but this is a perfect peice of cinema. Its a genre that we are all familiar with, brought to life through brilliant performances and top noth scripting, with a delighful twist in the ending. Brad Pitt is superb as Lt Aldo Raine, thick Tennesse accent and never loses his cool. Eli Roth and Diane Kruger also dazzle a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stevolegendbauer at 13:54, 13 August 2010 | Report This Post


Absolute genius

QT back on fine form, loved every minute of it, the scene in the bar is one of the best tense scenes Ive seen in a long time! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mossy101 at 03:26, 10 August 2010 | Report This Post


"This Just Might Be A Masterpiece."

Its fantastic, just brilliant, Loved Every minute of it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Kurtis93 at 11:02, 07 June 2010 | Report This Post


Rivals Jackie Brown as my favourite QT

I won't bore people with the blabbing on I completely embraced everything Quentin did with the film, unafraid to use subtitles. Great last line to finish it off. A revelation performance from Waltz and dizzy great moments. Don't miss it and if you don't like it why are you here ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by monkeyhumour at 06:46, 16 May 2010 | Report This Post


One of the decade's best

Pure and utter genius. So many stunning scenes - how QT didn't win his second writing oscar for this I'll never know because about 80% of this movie is stunning, stunning dialogue. The talent on display here is incredible. For me, QT's best by a distance. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 23:23, 09 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Glouriously glourious

oh yes, i like to state i saw it on the big screen 5 times, but didnt have a computer last year! ... More

Posted by empire No. 1 at 06:16, 21 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Glouriously glourious

im not sure im fit to review this extraordinary entry into the film world. i can truly only compare the priceless script Dickens or Shakespere. the acting talent mustered for our pleasure are faultless (bar Myers) music, hand picked by our boy, perfection. but, at its heart, it is all about Christolph Waltz. Best SUPPORTING Actor? Best Actor. full stop. oozing menace and charm in split (split-it-again) second facial flickers, this is an artist at the height of his powers. not afraid to explore ... More

Posted by empire No. 1 at 05:53, 21 April 2010 | Report This Post


Glouriously glourious

After the rather disappointing - I'm being kind - god awful modernized exploitation flick that was Tarantino's Death Proof (part 2 of the Grindhouse double bill), I had my expectations for Inglourious Basterds very low to the ground. Despite rave reviews and Cannes success especially, I was not convinced that Tarantino would ignite what was his unique sense of style and clever scriptwriting from the past, with such films as Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2 in particular. However, Inglou... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TinTinMunch at 18:59, 20 April 2010 | Report This Post


Pure genius

How should I exactly begin this review? Inglourious Basterds will simply blow you away with its ingenious writing, brilliant acting, capable direting and clever genre-mixing. Nothing you've ever seen before is quite like this. It's rather hard to describe this film. Drama, war film, comedy, epic...all seem to fit perfectly at one time or another. It is best to forget about describing the film and accept it for what it is: one of the best pieces of filmmaking you will ever see. Quentin Tarantino... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 22:09, 08 April 2010 | Report This Post


Glorious Tarantino

Bold, shocking, funny. Waltz steals the movie and gives the year's best performance. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:27, 29 March 2010 | Report This Post


Glorious Tarantino

Bold, shocking, funny. Waltz steals the movie and gives the year's best performance. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:27, 29 March 2010 | Report This Post


please mR T. make another one quick; I need more of this stuff! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cantie at 21:24, 20 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: A RREALLLY DARK COMEDY!

Liked it very much with the exception of Eli Roth and the bit with Shoshana getting ready for the screening with that music that just took me out of his world for a while. Heard Quentin always intended Adam Sandler to play the Bear Jew but he couldn't due to other film engagements. That would've been interesting to see. ... More

Posted by TheSpleen at 21:05, 20 March 2010 | Report This Post


A RREALLLY DARK COMEDY!

This movie was brilliant,not a moment of boredom while watching it,I haven't seen serious man,education,precious or blind side but out of the movies I saw nominated for best pic,this is the best one.The oscars are so controversial,once there's an ex-couple(Cameron and Bigelow)going against each other,they just make one of them win(hurt locker),if it was just avatar and hurt locker in the comp now,avatar deserved it,it introduced a new style in movies and is the future of film(unfortunately),eve... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnPaul1996 at 20:12, 09 March 2010 | Report This Post


A RREALLLY DARK COMEDY!

This movie was brilliant,not a moment of boredom while watching it,I haven't seen serious man,education,precious or blind side but out of the movies I saw nominated for best pic,this is the best one.The oscars are so controversial,once there's an ex-couple(Cameron and Bigelow)going against each other,they just make one of them win(hurt locker),if it was just avatar and hurt locker in the comp now,avatar deserved it,it introduced a new style in movies and is the future of film(unfortunately),eve... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnPaul1996 at 20:12, 09 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Enjoyed this...not as much as i thought i would.  Tarantino certainly knows how to write dialogue...everyone in this film is so good...no matter how small or big their part is.  Loved Christopher Waltz...he stole the film for me; he was so good.  Brilliant performance.  I'd also like to mention Brad Pitt and Diane Kruger...particularly Diane.  I remember her from Troy she was so awful.  But she brought a certain charm to the character and her performance.  She... More

Posted by princessa at 20:48, 06 March 2010 | Report This Post


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