Inglourious Basterds

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Inglourious Basterds
Inglourious Basterds poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byQuentin Tarantino
Produced byLawrence Bender
Written byQuentin Tarantino
Narrated bySamuel L. Jackson
StarringBrad Pitt
Christoph Waltz
Michael Fassbender
Eli Roth
Diane Kruger
Daniel Brühl
Til Schweiger
Mélanie Laurent
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Editing bySally Menke
StudioA Band Apart
Studio Babelsberg
Distributed byThe Weinstein Company (US)Universal Pictures International (International)
Release date(s)
  • May 20, 2009 (2009-05-20) (Cannes)
  • August 20, 2009 (2009-08-20) (Germany)
  • August 21, 2009 (2009-08-21) (United States)
Running time153 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2][3]
Budget$70 million[5]
Box office$321,455,689[6]
Inglourious Basterds is a 2009 war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth and Diane Kruger. The film tells the fictional alternate history story of two plots to assassinate Nazi Germany's political leadership, one planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor (Laurent), and the other by a team of Jewish-American soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt). The film's title was inspired by director Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 Macaroni Combat film, The Inglorious Bastards.
Development began in 1998, when Tarantino wrote the script. He struggled with the ending and chose to hold off filming and moved on to direct the two-part film Kill Bill. After directing Death Proof in 2007 (as part of the double feature Grindhouse), Tarantino returned to work on Inglourious Basterds. The film went into production in October 2008 and was filmed in Germany and France with a $70 million production budget. Inglourious Basterds premiered on May 20, 2009 at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or. It was widely released in theaters in the United States and Europe in August 2009 by The Weinstein Company and Universal Studios.
The film was commercially successful, grossing over $321 million in theaters worldwide, making it Tarantino's highest-grossing film at that point, and second highest to date, after Django Unchained. It received multiple awards and nominations, including eight Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture. For his role as Hans Landa, Waltz won the Cannes Film Festival's Best Actor Award, as well as the BAFTA Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe Award, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Plot[edit source | editbeta]

In 1941, SD colonel Hans Landa, nicknamed the "Jew Hunter", interrogates French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite. To save his family, LaPadite confesses to hiding the Jewish Dreyfus family underneath his floor. Landa orders SS soldiers to shoot through the floorboards and kill the family, but allows teenage Shosanna to escape.
In spring 1944, 1st Special Service Force Lieutenant Aldo Raine recruits eight Jewish-American soldiers for a mission behind enemy lines, telling them they each owe him 100 Nazi scalps and will take no prisoners. The "Basterds" become so feared, Adolf Hitler personally interviews a soldier, Butz. Butz relates how his squad was ambushed and his sergeant beaten to death with a baseball bat by Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz, the "Bear Jew" (feared as Golem by the German soldiers), when the sergeant refused to divulge information. Butz survived by providing the information, but Raine carved a swastika into his forehead with a knife.
In June 1944, Shosanna—who has adopted the alias "Emmanuelle Mimieux"—runs a cinema in Paris. She meets Fredrick Zoller, a German sniper whose exploits are to be celebrated in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride), starring as himself. Attracted to Shosanna, Zoller convinces Joseph Goebbels to hold the premiere at her cinema. Shosanna seizes the opportunity, secretly resolving with her projectionist and lover, Marcel, to burn down her cinema, to kill the top Nazi leaders at the première. Meanwhile, film critic of German cinema, Lieutenant Archie Hicox, is recruited for "Operation Kino" by British General Ed Fenech and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Hicox will rendezvous with their agent, German film star Bridget von Hammersmark and the Basterds, and infiltrate and plant explosives at the premiere.
Hicox and Hugo Stiglitz, a convicted German sergeant who was freed by and joined the Basterds after killing several of his superiors, meet von Hammersmark at a tavern, where Staff Sergeant Wilhelm is celebrating his son's birth. Sturmbannführer Dieter Hellstrom notices Hicox's odd accent. Hicox gives himself away, signalling three drinks but not holding up his fingers in the German fashion. In the ensuing firefight, everyone except Wilhelm and von Hammersmark is killed. While Raine negotiates with Wilhelm, the actress shoots the sergeant. Though his German-speaking men and Hicox are dead, Raine, upon learning from von Hammersmark that Hitler himself will be attending the premiere, decides to go ahead anyway. He, Donny, and Omar pose as von Hammersmark's Italian escort and cameramen. Later, Landa investigates and finds von Hammersmark's shoe and her autographed napkin at the tavern.
At the premiere, Landa, who can speak Italian, is not fooled and sees von Hammersmark privately. He makes her wear the shoe, which fits, and strangles her to death, then orders Raine and Utivich's capture. Landa has Raine contact his commanding officer with the OSS and brokers a deal: in exchange for not hindering the explosives plan and thus ending the war, he receives immunity, US citizenship, financial security, and the Medal of Honor for himself and the rest of the members of the operation. During the screening, Zoller slips away to the projection room to see Shosanna, who rejects his advances but then has him lock the door. With his back turned, she fatally shoots him, but he manages to turn and fatally shoots her, as well. Meanwhile, Omar and Donowitz manage to dispatch the soldiers guarding Hitler.
A spliced-in clip of Shosanna's cackling in the cinema informs the audience that they are about to be killed by a Jew. Marcel, having locked the cinema, exits and ignites a pile of extremely flammable nitrate film behind the screen. Omar and Donowitz burst into the screening as it burns and riddle Hitler, Goebbels, and the trapped crowd with machine-gun fire, until the bombs go off and destroy the cinema. Landa and his radio operator drive Raine and Utivich across the American lines, whereupon they surrender. To Landa's horror, Raine shoots the radio operator and has Utivich collect his scalp. Raine expresses his disappointment that Landa will be able to remove his SS uniform after the war, and as a result carves a swastika into Landa's forehead, stating afterwards: "This just might be my masterpiece."

Cast[edit source | editbeta]

Production[edit source | editbeta]

Development[edit source | editbeta]

Tarantino spent just over a decade writing the film's script because, as he told Charlie Rose in an interview, he became "too precious about the page," meaning the story kept growing and expanding.[7][8] Tarantino viewed the script as his masterpiece in the making, so he felt it had to become the best thing he had ever written.[9] Tarantino described an early premise of the film as his "bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission" film.[10] He said it was "my Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare or Guns of Navarone kind of thing".[11] According to Tarantino, all his films make the audience laugh at things that are not supposed to be funny, but the sense of humor differs in each.[12]
"I'm going to find a place that actually resembles, in one way or another, the Spanish locales they had in spaghetti westerns – a no man's land. With US soldiers and French peasants and the French resistance and German occupation troops, it was kind of a no man's land. That will really be my spaghetti Western but with World War II iconography. But the thing is, I won't be period specific about the movie. I'm not just gonna play a lot of Édith Piaf and Andrews Sisters. I can have rap, and I can do whatever I want. It's about filling in the viscera."[13]
—Quentin Tarantino
By 2002, Tarantino found Inglourious Basterds to be a bigger film than planned and saw that other directors were working on World War II films.[14] At this point, Tarantino had produced three nearly finished scripts, proclaiming that it was "some of the best writing I've ever done. But I couldn't come up with an ending."[15] Consequently, the director held off his planned film and moved on to direct the two-part film Kill Bill (2003–2004).[14] After the completion of Kill Bill, Tarantino went back to his first storyline draft and came up with the idea of turning it into a mini-series. Instead he trimmed the script, using his script for Pulp Fiction as a guide to the right length.[16] He then planned to begin production of Inglourious Basterds in 2005.[17] The revised premise focused on a group of soldiers who escape from their executions and embark on a mission to help the Allies. He described the men as "not your normal hero types that are thrown into a big deal in the Second World War".[18]
In November 2004, Tarantino decided to hold off the film's production and instead took an acting role in Takashi Miike's spaghetti western film Sukiyaki Western Django and intended to make a kung fu film entirely in Mandarin.[19] This project foundered as well, and he ultimately directed a part of the 2007 Grindhouse instead, before returning to work on Inglourious Basterds.[17] The film's title was inspired by the English-language title of director Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 war film, The Inglorious Bastards.[20][21] When asked for an explanation of the film's title's spelling during a news conference at the Cannes Film Festival, Tarantino said, "I'm never going to explain that".[22] When pushed on it, Tarantino would not explain the first u in Inglourious, but said, "The Basterds? That's just the way you say it: Basterds."[21][23] Tarantino later stated in an interview that the misspelled title is "a Basquiat-esque touch."[24] He further commented on Late Show with David Letterman that Inglourious Basterds is a "Quentin Tarantino spelling."[25]

Casting[edit source | editbeta]

Christoph Waltz at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Tarantino originally sought Leonardo DiCaprio to be cast as Hans Landa,[26] before deciding to have the character played by an older German actor.[27] The role ultimately went to Austrian Christoph Waltz, who, according to Tarantino, "gave me my movie" as he feared the part was "unplayable."[28] Pitt and Tarantino had wanted to work together for a number of years, but were forced to wait for the right project.[29] When Tarantino was halfway through the film's script, he sensed that Pitt was a strong possibility for the role of Aldo Raine. By the time he had finished writing, Tarantino thought Pitt "would be terrific" and called Pitt's talent agent to ask if he was available.[29]
Tarantino asked Adam Sandler to play the role of Donny Donowitz, but Sandler declined due to schedule conflicts with the film Funny People.[30] Eli Roth was cast in the role instead. Roth also directed the film-within-the-film, Nation's Pride,[31] which used 300 extras.[32] The director also wanted to cast Simon Pegg in the film as Lt. Archie Hicox, but the actor was forced to drop out due to scheduling difficulties with Spielberg's Tintin adaptation.[33] Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender began final negotiations to join the cast as Hicox in August 2008.[33] The Office actor and writer, B. J. Novak, was also cast in August 2008 as Private First Class Smithson Utivich, "a New York-born soldier of 'slight build'".[34]
Tarantino talked to actress Nastassja Kinski about playing the role of Bridget von Hammersmark and even flew to Germany to meet her, but a deal could not be reached[35] and Tarantino cast Diane Kruger instead.[30][36] Rod Taylor was effectively retired from acting and no longer had an agent, but came out of retirement when Tarantino offered him the role of Winston Churchill in the film.[37] In preparation for the role, Taylor watched dozens of DVDs with footage of Churchill in order to get the Prime Minister's posture, body language, and voice, including a lisp, correct.[37] Taylor initially recommended British actor Albert Finney for the role during their conversation, but agreed to take the part because of Tarantino's "passion."[37] Mike Myers (as Gen. Ed Fenech), a fan of Tarantino, had inquired about being in the film since Myers' parents had been in the British Armed Forces.[38] In terms of the character's dialect, Myers felt that it was a version of Received Pronunciation meeting the officer class, but mostly an attitude of "I'm fed up with this war and if this dude can end it, great because my country is in ruins."[39]
Director Enzo G. Castellari also makes a cameo appearance in the film. He previously cameoed as a German in his own Inglorious Bastards and reprised the same role in this film, but under a different rank and SS organization.[40][41] Bo Svenson, who starred in Castellari's The Inglorious Bastards, also has a small cameo in the film, but can be seen more closely in the Nation's Pride trailer.[42] Samuel L. Jackson and Harvey Keitel, who have both previously starred in Tarantino's films, make small voice-only contributions as the narrator and an OSS commander, respectively.[43] Two characters, Mrs. Himmelstein and Madame Ada Mimieux, played by Cloris Leachman and Maggie Cheung respectively, were both cut from the final film due to length reasons.[44][45]

Filming[edit source | editbeta]

Tarantino teamed with The Weinstein Company to prepare what he planned to be his film for production.[46] In July 2008, Tarantino and executive producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein set up an accelerated production schedule to be completed for release at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, where the film would compete for the Palme d'Or.[47][48] The Weinstein Company co-financed the film and distributed it in the United States, and signed a deal with Universal Pictures to finance the rest of the film and distribute it internationally.[49][50] Germany and France were scheduled as filming locations and principal photography started in October 2008 on location in Germany.[51][52][53] Filming was scheduled to begin on October 13, 2008, and shooting started that week.[54][55] Special effects were handled by KNB EFX Group with Greg Nicotero[56] and much of the film was shot and edited in the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany[4] and in Bad Schandau, a small spa town near Germany's border with the Czech Republic.[57] Roth claimed that they "almost got incinerated", during the theater fire scene, as they projected the fire would burn at 400 °C (750 °F), but it instead burned at 1200 °C (2000 °F). He claimed the swastika was not supposed to fall either, as it was fastened with steel cables, but the steel softened and snapped.[58] On January 11, 2013, on the BBC's The Graham Norton Show, Tarantino claimed that for the scene where Kruger was strangled, he personally strangled the actress, with his own bare hands, in one take, to aid authenticty.[59]
Following the film's screening at Cannes, Tarantino stated that he would be re-editing the film in June before its ultimate theatrical release, allowing him time to finish assembling several scenes that were not completed in time for the hurried Cannes première.[60]

Music[edit source | editbeta]

Tarantino originally wanted Ennio Morricone to compose the film's soundtrack.[21] Morricone was unable to, because the film's sped-up production schedule conflicted with his scoring of Giuseppe Tornatore's Baarìa.[61] However, Tarantino did use eight tracks composed by Morricone in the film, with four of them included on the CD.[62][63]
The opening theme is taken from the pseudo-folk ballad "The Green Leaves of Summer", which was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster for the opening of the 1960 film The Alamo.[62][64] The soundtrack uses a variety of music genres, including spaghetti western, R&B and David Bowie's theme from the 1982 film Cat People.[65] This is the first of Tarantino's soundtracks that does not include dialogue excerpts from the film.[66] The soundtrack was released on August 18, 2009.[67]

Release[edit source | editbeta]

Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent, and producer Lawrence Bender at a premiere for the film in August 2009
When the script's final draft was finished, it was leaked on the Internet and several Tarantino fan sites began posting reviews and excerpts from the script.[68][69]
The film's first full teaser trailer premiered on Entertainment Tonight on February 10, 2009,[70] and was shown in US theaters the following week attached to Friday the 13th.[71] The trailer features excerpts of Lt. Aldo Raine talking to the Basterds, informing them of the plan to ambush and kill, torture, and scalp unwitting Nazi servicemen, intercut with various other scenes from the film.[72] It also features the spaghetti-westernesque terms Once Upon A Time In Nazi Occupied France,[72] which was considered for the film's title,[73] and A Basterd's Work is Never Done, a line not spoken in the final film (the line occurs in the script during the Bear Jew's backstory).[74]
The film was released on August 19, 2009 in the United Kingdom and France,[75] two days earlier than the US release date of August 21, 2009.[76] It was released in Germany on August 20, 2009.[77] Some European cinemas, however, showed previews starting on August 15.[78] In Poland, the artwork on all advertisements and on DVD packaging is unchanged, but the title was translated non-literally to Bękarty Wojny (Bastards of War), so that Nazi iconography could stylize the letter "O".[79]

Censorship[edit source | editbeta]

Universal Pictures censored the film's German publicity website, as the display of Nazi iconography is restricted in Germany. The title has the swastika removed and the steel helmet has a bullet hole instead of the Nazi symbol.[80] The German site's download section was revised to exclude wallpaper downloads that openly feature the swastika.[81] Though the advertisement posters and wallpapers must not show Nazi iconography, this does not apply to "works of art" according to German law, so the film itself is not censored in Germany.[82]

Home media[edit source | editbeta]

The film was released on single-disc DVD and a two-disc special edition DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 15, 2009, by Universal Studios Home Entertainment in the United States[83] and Australia.[84] It was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 7, 2009, in the UK.[85] On its first week of release, the film was number two, only behind The Hangover, selling an estimated 1,581,220 DVDs making $28,467,652 in the United States.[86]
The German version is 50 seconds longer than the American version. The scene in the tavern has been extended. Although in other countries, the extended scene was released as a bonus feature, the German theatrical, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc versions are the only ones to include the full scene.[87]

Reception[edit source | editbeta]

Box office[edit source | editbeta]

Opening in 3,165 screens, the film earned $14.3 million on the opening Friday of its North American release,[88] on the way to an opening weekend gross of $38 million, giving Tarantino a personal best weekend opening and the number one spot at the box office, ahead of District 9.[89] The film fell to number two in its second weekend, behind The Final Destination, with earnings of $20 million, and grossed $73.8 million in its first ten days.[90] Inglourious Basterds opened internationally at number one in 22 markets on 2,650 screens making $27.49 million. First place openings included France, taking in $6.09 million on 500 screens. The United Kingdom was not far behind making $5.92 million (£3.8m) on 444 screens. Germany took in $4.20 million on 439 screens and Australia with $2.56 million (A$2.8m) on 266 screens.[91] It has come to gross $120.5 million in the United States and Canada and $200.9 million in other territories, making its worldwide gross $321.4 million. Inglourious Basterds was Tarantino's highest grossing film, both in the U.S. and worldwide until Django Unchained in 2012.[92]

Critical reception[edit source | editbeta]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 89% of 270 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.7 out of 10.[93] According to the site's critical consensus, "A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining."[94] Metacritic, which assigns a score of 1–100 to individual film reviews, gives the film an averaged rating of 69 based on 36 reviews.[95]
Cast and crew at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival
The film received mainly positive reviews. Critics' initial reactions at the Cannes Film Festival were mixed. The film received an eight- to eleven-minute standing ovation from critics after its first screening at Cannes,[96][97] although Le Monde, a leading French newspaper, dismissed it, saying "Tarantino gets lost in a fictional World War II".[98] Despite this, Anne Thompson of Variety praised the film, but opined that it was not a masterpiece, claiming, "Inglourious Basterds is great fun to watch, but the movie isn't entirely engaging... You don't jump into the world of the film in a participatory way; you watch it from a distance, appreciating the references and the masterful mise en scène. This is a film that will benefit from a second viewing".[99] Critic James Berardinelli gave the film his first four-star review of 2009, stating, "With Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has made his best movie since Pulp Fiction," and that it was "one hell of an enjoyable ride."[100] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film a four-star review, writing that "Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is a big, bold, audacious war movie that will annoy some, startle others and demonstrate once again that he's the real thing, a director of quixotic delights."[101] Author and critic Daniel Mendelsohn was disturbed by the portrayal of Jewish-American soldiers mimicking German atrocities done to European Jews, stating, "In Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino indulges this taste for vengeful violence by—well, by turning Jews into Nazis".[102] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian stated he was "struck... by how exasperatingly awful and transcendentally disappointing it is".[103] While praising Christoph Waltz's performance ("a good actor new to American audiences"), David Denby, of The New Yorker, dismissed the film with the following words: "The film is skillfully made, but it's too silly to be enjoyed, even as a joke. [...] Tarantino has become an embarrassment: his virtuosity as a maker of images has been overwhelmed by his inanity as an idiot de la cinémathèque."[104] Christopher Hitchens likened the experience of watching the film to "sitting in the dark having a great pot of warm piss emptied very slowly over your head."[105]
The film has met some criticism from Jewish press, as well. In Tablet, Liel Liebowitz criticizes the film as lacking moral depth. He argues that the power of film lies in its ability to impart knowledge and subtle understanding, but Inglourious Basterds serves more as an "alternative to reality, a magical and Manichean world where we needn't worry about the complexities of morality, where violence solves everything, and where the Third Reich is always just a film reel and a lit match away from cartoonish defeat".[106] Anthony Frosh, writer for the online magazine Galus Australis, has criticized the film for failing to develop its characters sufficiently, labeling the film "Enthralling, but lacking in Jewish content".[107]

Accolades[edit source | editbeta]

Christoph Waltz was singled out for Cannes honors, receiving the Best Actor Award at the festival's end.[108] Film critic Devin Faraci of stated: "The cry has been raised long before this review, but let me continue it: Christoph Waltz needs not an Oscar nomination but rather an actual Oscar in his hands.... he must have gold".[109] The film received four Golden Globe Award nominations[110] including Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Supporting Actor for Waltz, who went on to win the award.[111] The film also received three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and went on to win the awards for Best Cast and Best Supporting Actor, which was awarded to Waltz.[112] The film was nominated for six BAFTA Awards, including Best Director for Tarantino,[113] winning only one award—Best Supporting Actor for Waltz. In February 2010, the film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Waltz, and Best Original Screenplay.[114] Waltz was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[115]

In popular culture[edit source | editbeta]

On December 5, 2010, "The Fight Before Christmas", the eighth episode of The Simpsons' twenty-second season, featured an Inglourious Basterds sequence during a World War II flashback.[116]
When the Jewish, 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m), 314-pound American football player Gabe Carimi was drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft's first round by the Chicago Bears, he was nicknamed "The Bear Jew", a reference to the character in Inglourious Basterds.[117][118]