Inglourious Basterds is a 2009 war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Mélanie Laurent. The film tells the fictional story of two plots to assassinate the Nazi Germany political leadership, one planned by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor (Laurent), and the other by a team of Jewish Allied soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt).
Development on Inglourious Basterds began in 1998, when Tarantino wrote the script for the film. Tarantino 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 production budget of $70 million. 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.
In 1941, SD Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) arrives at a dairy farm in France to interrogate Perrier Lapadite (Denis Menochet) about rumors that he is hiding the Jewish Dreyfus family. Landa pressures the farmer to confess to hiding the family underneath his floor. Landa then orders the SS soldiers into the house to shoot through the floorboards where they are hiding. The entire family is killed, except the teenage Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), whom Landa allows to escape.
In the spring of 1944, 1st Special Service Force First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is tasked to recruit a team of eight Jewish-American soldiers for a mission to go behind enemy lines and hunt German servicemen. He tells the soldiers that they each owe him 100 Nazi scalps. They operate with a “take no prisoners” attitude and come to be known as the “Basterds”. One survivor of an attack by the Basterds, a soldier named Butz (Sönke Möhring), is interviewed by Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke). Butz’s account of the attack is shown in flashback: his squad was ambushed and his sergeant (Richard Sammel) was beaten to death with a baseball bat by Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), known by the Germans as “The Bear Jew”. Butz then reveals that Raine carved a swastika into his forehead with a knife.
In June 1944, Shosanna has assumed a new identity as “Emmanuelle Mimieux” and is operating a cinema in Paris. She meets Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a German sniper whose exploits are to be celebrated in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride). Zoller is attracted to Shosanna and convinces Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) to hold the premiere of his film at Shosanna’s cinema. Shosanna realizes that the presence of several high-ranking Nazi officials provides an opportunity for revenge and resolves to burn down the cinema during the premiere by setting fire to a large quantity of extremely flammable nitrate film.
A British General, General Ed Fenech (Mike Myers) learns of the premiere and “Operation Kino” is conceived, and Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is recruited to infiltrate the event, aided by the Basterds and German film actress and British spy, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger). Hicox and Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) meet with von Hammersmark at a tavern where Major Dieter Hellstrom (August Diehl), of the Gestapo, notices Hicox’s odd accent and that he gives the wrong (non-German) three-fingered order for drinks; three fingers up instead of two fingers and the thumb. This results in a firefight and a standoff with a German serviceman, Staff Sgt. Wilhelm (Alexander Fehling), leaving everyone dead except von Hammersmark. Raine interrogates von Hammersmark, and upon learning that Hitler will be attending the premiere, devises a plan whereby he, Donny, and Omar (Omar Doom) will pose as von Hammersmark’s Italian escorts at the premiere. Landa later investigates the tavern, retrieving von Hammersmark’s shoe and an autographed napkin.
At the premiere, Landa asks to see von Hammersmark privately, where he makes her try on the shoe. Convinced to his satisfaction that she is in league with the Basterds, he suddenly strangles her to death. He then orders Raine and Utivich (B. J. Novak) to be arrested. Communicating by radio, Landa makes a deal with Raine’s commanding officer (Harvey Keitel) to be granted a full military pension and American citizenship, in exchange for allowing Donny and Omar—still seated in the cinema—to kill the Nazi high command. During the film, Zoller goes to the projection room to see Shosanna and confronts her angrily due to her multiple rejections of his advances from the beginning. When his back is turned, she shoots him multiple times, but he manages to shoot her dead before succumbing to his wounds. The film is then interrupted by an inserted close-up of Shosanna informing the audience that they are going to be killed by a Jew. At the same time, Shosanna’s employee and lover, Marcel (Jacky Ido), who has locked and bolted all the exits of the cinema, ignites the nitrate film stacked behind the screen. Omar and Donowitz disguise themselves as waiters and kill the soldiers guarding Hitler with hidden pistols. They then kill Goebbels and Hitler, and shoot into the crowd of panicking Nazis until the timers on their bombs go off and destroy the cinema, killing everyone inside.
Landa and his radio operator drive Raine and Utivich to the American lines, and according to the deal, Landa surrenders to Raine and hands over his weapons, allowing Utivich to handcuff him. To Landa’s horror, Raine then shoots the radio operator and orders Utivich to scalp the dead man. Raine — hating the idea of Landa walking away unpunished — then carves a swastika into Landa’s forehead, proclaiming, “You know something, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.”
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First Published: Dec 23, 2011 – Last Updated: Apr 23, 2013