An Inglorious, Uproarious, Thrillride of Vengeance!
By now, we've all seen the trailers on TV. Sure is funny when Hitler (wearing that ridiculous cape) is banging his hand on the table, "Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein!", to which Brad Pitt responds, "Oh yes, yes, yes, yes!". Well, that exchange never takes place. As it has been noted previously, movie trailers lie a Hell of a lot of the time. But the Weinstein Company is practically describing an entirely different movie. You're led to believe that this is basically a live-action version of Wolfenstein, with Brad Pitt taking on the Third Reich almost single-handedly, with a little help from the guy that directed the
horror film torture porno, Hostel. As awesome as that would be, it is hardly the case. Instead, Inglourious Basterds is driven by an immense ensemble of talented actors, with most of the dialogue spoken in either French or German. While the average American tends to look down their nose at Foreign Language films, trust us when we say that this is no Art House film.
1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine, aka "Aldo the Apache": Brad Pitt with an Appalachian accent. Formerly a bootlegger from Tennessee, his outstanding service during the Invasion of Sicily led to his appointment as the head of a special task-force assigned to spread fear throughout the German army. For this mission, he has chosen to fill his Section with eight of the baddest Jewish-American soldiers the U.S. Army had to offer. In keeping with his Apache heritage, he intends to be as brutal as possible in his guerrilla warfare, scalping anyone wearing a Nazi uniform unfortunate enough to cross his path.
Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz, aka "The Bear Jew": Eli Roth. The most feared member of The Basterds. His size and viciousness has led superstitious German soldiers to believe he is some kind of Golem, a creature from Jewish folklore. In this year's September issue of Playboy, there is a short comic strip illustrating a scene taken from Tarantino's original screenplay. During the interrogation of a capture SS officer, we are treated to a flashback into Donny's life before the war. In the film, he weilds a baseball bat with various Jewish names written on it (if you look closely, you can see one of them reads "Anne Frank"). In this excerpt, we see him visiting his old neighborhood in Boston, collecting the names of the relatives of his friends & neighbors that are still in Europe, suffering at the hands of the Nazis. Among those he visits was an old woman, whose part was played (but ultimately cut) by Cloris Leachman. Now, Eli Roth is not an actor; he's a film-maker, and probably Tarantino's best friend, aside from hetero-life-partner Robert Rodriguez. For his part, he add thirty-five pounds of muscle. The role was originally written with Adam Sandler in mind, who turn it down to do the incredibly boring Funny People.
Oberfeldwebel Hugo Stiglitz: Til Schweiger. Not an original member of the team. Among the Basterds' first missions is to break Stiglitz out of prison. While it is never made clear if wether or not he is Jewish, he more than shares their hatred of the Nazis. As our narrarator (an uncredited Samuel L. Jackson) explains, Hugo was in jail for brutally mudering 13 of his Commanding Officers. Rather than simply putting in front of a firing squad, the High Command intended to have him publicly executed in Berlin, as a warning to all those who sympathize with the Jews. Fortunately, the Basterds got to him first, and the Nazis have another reason to be shitting their pants.
Corporal Wilhelm Wicki: Gedeon Burkhard. An Austrian-American Jew. He acts as the Basterds' interpreter when interrogating captured Nazis.
Private First Class Smithson Utivitch: B.J. Novak, aka "the Temp from The Office." According to an interview in Esquire, Utivitch comes from a family that quickly assimilated into the W.A.S.P. society, and enlisting was his way of reclaiming his Jewish heritage.
PFC Omar Ulmer: Omar Doom. A musician friend of Tarantino, with almost no previous acting experience. The role was created specifically for him.
The rest of the team is relatively unimportant, but their names are (in case you care) are: Gerold Hirschberg (Samm Levine), Andy Kagan (Paul Rust), Michael Zimmerman (Michael Baccall), Simon Sakowitz (Carlos Fidel).
It'll make more sense when you see it.
Lt. Archie Hicox: Michael Fassbender. Prior to the war, he was a British film critic who specialized in the German cinema. His extensive knowledge of German culture, as well as speaking German fluently, will aid the Basterds in their final mission. In what could've only made this movie just that much more awesome, Tarantino wrote the role with Simon Pegg in mind. Unfortunately, Scotty #2 chose to do Steven Spielberg's version of Tin-Tin instead.
General Ed Fenech: Mike Myers. Yes, you read that right. Mike freaking Myers. Wayne Campbell in a dramatic role. Austin Powers in a scene that is played completely straight. It's just one scene, but he is totally serious throughout it. Fenech is the one who organizes the collaboration between Hicox and the Basterds, dubbed Operation Kino.
Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister: Rod Taylor. For those of you readers who have never seen a movie older than you are, Taylor is a legendary actor who was a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock. Although he's been retired for years, Tarantino apparently begged him to take the part. Taylor insisted that he was done with acting, and suggested that Tarantino cast Albert Finney instead. Again, for you younger readers, that would be the dad from Big Fish (not Obi-Wan Kenobi, the old man). But Tarantino was finally able to convince him. He has a total of three lines in the film, only two of which are delivered on-screen.
Bridget von Hammersmark: Diane Kruger. A famed German actress. She has been working as a double-agent, supplying Gen. Fenech with the information needed to eliminate the Nazi High Command.
The French Resistance:
Shoshanna Dreyfus: Melanie Laurent. A Jewish girl from the French countryside. Half the films is about the Basterds trying to kill as many Nazis as possible. The other half is about Shoshanna plotting to kill as many Nazis as possible. Four years prior to the events of this film, her family was massacred by the SS. Now living under the assumed identity of "Emmanuelle Mimieux", she operates a movie theatre in Paris. She has no affiliation with the Basterds, but ultimately shares the same goal.
Marcel: Jacky Ido. A French-African projectionist, and Shoshanna's lover. He is willing to die for her.
Colonel Hans Landa: Christoph Waltz. A self-described detective, nicknamed "The Jew Hunter" by the people of France. He is responsible for the death of Shoshanna's family, and has taken a personal interest in Lt. Raine and his men. While Cracked's undying love and devotion to The Dark Knight is well-documented, Col. Landa could very-well take the title of Greatest Film Villain from Heath Ledger (if you believed that Ledger was truly deserving of that honor, and weren't just kissing his ass because he died). Tarantino had originally envisioned Leonardo DiCaprio in the part, but decided that Landa needed to be played by an actual German actor, who was also fluent in French, English, and Italian (it comes up late in the movie).
Private Frederick Zoller: Daniel Bruhl. A naive young soldier who has become infatuated with "Emmanuelle." During the Invasion of Italy, he killed nearly 300 American soldiers, and his heroics have made him the darling of the Propaganda machine, which has dubbed him the "German Sgt. York."
Major Dieter Hellstrom: August Diehl. A seemingly unimportant agent of the Gestapo. However, his Landa-like prowess of deduction proves to be a critical hinderance to the Basterds' plans.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda: Sylvester Groth. The second-most powerful man in the Third Reich. He fancies himself to be a revolutionary filmmaker, intent on erasing Expressionism (pioneered by the Jewish Robert Wiene) from German cinema, and toppling the (allegedly) Jewish-controlled Hollywood. His next project, Nation's Pride, is based on the exploits Frederick Zoller. It is at the premeire of which the Basterds intend to make their final strike. While he is a confirmed heterosexual (trust us, you do not want to imagine this man having sex) he seems to hero worship the Fuhrer, to the point of which a compliment on his work brings him to tears.
Adolf Hitler: Martin Wuttke. A Jew-hating, mass-murdering maniac. Not much of a spoiler, since you know he's going to die, but by the end of the movie, his head looks like a plate of chunky salsa. In a true testament to Tarantino's extensive knowledge of the film industry, Wuttke's previous film had him portraying Joseph Goebbels. Groth's previous film role? Hitler.
Chapter One -- Once Upon a Time, in Nazi-Occupied France...
We are introduced to Col. Hans Landa of the SS. He has been tasked with rounding up the last of the Jews in France. His current targets are the Dreyfus family, who have taken refuge beneath the floorboards of their neighbors. When Landa arrives at the home, it is clear that he already knows they are being sheltered, but insists on mind-fucking there would-be savior into turning them in. Only their daughter, 19-year-old Shoshanna escapes the slaughter. Even though Landa has her square in the sights of his Luger, he allows her to run, that he may hunt her another day.
Chapter Two -- The Inglourious Basterds
Lt. Aldo Raine has assembled before him eight of Uncle Sam's toughest Jewish soldiers. What he is aking of them is to volunteer for what is essentially an extended suicide mission. They will infiltrate the occupied territories, and will unleash a Holy Hell Storm upon each and every man wearing a Nazi uniform they find. Their objective is to spread fear & terror throughout the ranks of the Third Reich, and when the scalped corpses of their countrymen begin piling up, it does just that.
Chapter Three -- German Night in Paris
It has been four years since the massacre of her family at the hands of Hans Landa and the SS. Shoshanna Dreyfus is now living in Paris living under an assumed identity, operating an old cinema that belonged to her caretakers. After a German film festival, a young soldier named Frederick Zoller tries to make small talk with her, but she is not interested. The next day, Private Zoller again attempts to get acquainted with her, but she wants nothing to do with him. However, other soldiers (as well as officers) enthusiastically greet him. Now curious, Zoller explains to her that he is something a hero amongst the German people. He was able to single-handedly hold out for three days against the invading American forces. Armed with only a sniper rifle and a thousand rounds of ammunition, he killed 300 men. Shoshanna's disgust returns, and walks out on him. Later, she is escorted by the SS to a restaurant where not only Frederick is waiting for her, but also Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, and the second-most powerful man in the Third Reich. In an attempt to impress her, Frederick has convinced Dr. Goebbels to switch the premeire of his latest film from the Ritz to her small theatre. All of the Nazi High Command will be in attendance. Back at the theatre, a plan is forming. With the help of the projectionist, her lover Marcel, Shoshanna intends to burn the theatre to the ground of the night of the premeire, killing every German in it.
Chapter Four -- Operation "KINO"
Lt. Archie Hicox is a very cultured man. Not only can he speak German fluently, but before the war, he was a well-respected film critic, who specialized in the German cinema. It is his extensive knowledge of German culture that Gen. Ed Fenech hopes to use to their advantage. Through their double-agent, acclaimed German film actress Bridget von Hammersmark, the Allies have learned of Goebbels' big night. Knowing that they will soon have all their rotten eggs in one basket, Prime Minister Winston Churchill intends to blow-up the basket. Hicox will be dropped in a small town outside of Paris, where he will rendezvous with the Basterds. The team will then meet with Miss von Hammersmark, who will help them infiltrate the premeire.
Chapter Five -- Revenge of the Giant Face
The night of the premeire.
Will Lt. Raine and his men accomplish their final mission and eliminate the Nazi High Command? Will justice be served, and Shoshanna receive her vengeance? And where does Col. Landa fit into all of their plans?
The immediate reaction from movie critics was that of unanimous approval. Not since Pulp Fiction has a Tarantino film received as much praise. While a frequent target of critique has been the non-chronological storytelling and the seemingly random dialogue, IG has almost none of that. As of writing this, it holds a user rating of 8.6 on the Internet Movie Database, and is ranked the 44th greatest movie of all-time (just behind WALL*E).
Earlier this year, Tarantino received his third nomination for the Golden Palm Award (Best Picture) at the Cannes Film Festival. The first was for Pulp Fiction (not so surprisingly) and the second was for Death Proof (very surprisingly). It lost to The White Ribbon, an Austrian film that probably no-one in the Western hemisphere will see unless they're a student of film. It did, however, win the award for Best Actor for Christoph Waltz (the only win for an American film this year). Although the film has only been out for a few weeks, and the nomination process hasn't even begun, numerous film critics are already predicting that Christoph Waltz will undoubtedly win the Oscar for Best Actor at next years Academy Awards.
Criticism, and Reaction from the Jewish Community
In the interest of objective journalism, it is only fair that we at Cracked inform you of the faults (that others have found) with the movie.
For starters, the Basterds, while heroic, are also quite sociopathic. They all seem unable (or unwilling) to differentiate "German soldier" from "Nazi." While all Nazis (at least in WWII) were German, not all Germans were Nazis. In fact, they never even called themselves that. "Nazi" is a portmanteau of "National Socialist" (the political party of Hitler) that the Allies adopted. So unless they were doing some kind of card check, the Basterds basically murdered a lot of innocent men who were only serving their country (an SS officer executed by Donowitz is probably the most sympathetic character in the whole movie).
The historical inaccuracies are also frequently pointed out. But to be honest, does anyone really care? As Cracked has pointed out before, some of the most acclaimed movies of all-time were grossly historically inaccurate. Just to be clear, nearly everyone knows and agrees that Hitler blew his brains out in a bunker on April 30th, 1945, two days after marrying longtime girlfriend Eva Braun (who killed herself via cyanide poisoning), as the Russian army was closing in. Joseph Goebbels was the Furher for one day, his only official act being to send a letter of surrender to the Soviet commander, before euthanizing his six children, and committing suicide with his wife. The rest of the High Command either escaped (with the aid of the Vatican) or went on trial for Crimes Against Humanity. The climax of the film is a much more satisfying fate for some of history's greatestest monsters.
What IS historically accurate, however, is the portrayal of Sir Winston Churchill. If you had bothered to read Jacopo's brilliant article of Sir Christopher Lee, you would know that Churchill himself had commissioned a special team, comprised of the best men from the Royal Army, Navy, and Air Force (though not necessarily Jewish), for special operations against the Axis Powers. Lee was among these men, as was his cousin, Sir Ian Flemming, the creator of James Bond (it has been speculated that Bond was a semi-autobiographical character). Unfortunately, the exact details of these special operations remain highly classified to this, and are not to be disclosed to the public until the last member has died. And since this is a man who has played a Jedi master, a dark wizard, and Count fucking Dracula, we can have quite a wait on our hands.
On a lesser note, Bridget von Hammersmark may have been based on Lilian Harvey. She was also an acclaimed German actress, who was later discoverd to have been working with the British, trading secrets in exchange for smuggling her Jewish friends out of the country.
Most baffling, however, is the response from the Jewish community. Jewish-American leaders have denounced the film for it's excessive portrayal of violence, and for having the audacity to suggest that Jews were capable as being savage as Nazis. And yet it was okay for Steven Spielberg to make Munich. What is this, like N-Word Privledges? Only other Jews can make movies about Jews being killers? Keep in mind, that these are the same people who were able to forgive Jesse Jackson for calling New York City "Hymietown" (among many other anti-Semitic remarks). The Jewish Justice League has also accused Tarantino of "profiteering off the Holocaust." Then what the Hell was Schindler's List?! Stevie might waived his fee as a director, but you can make damn sure that the suits at Universal didn't give up a cent. You would think that of all people, disaporic Jews would be the biggest fans of this movie, seeing the Nazis finally getting whats coming to them. One Cracked writer (who is not allowed to speak in the first-person) is only an eighth Jewish, and even he found it extremely satisfying to see his great-grandfather's tormentors punished with extreme prejudice.