Saturday, November 05, 2016

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I’ve always been good at determining if I’d like a movie by the coming attractions.  I know that you can’t really judge a book by its cover, but I’m right 99.99% of the time.  While I liked Inglourious Basterds, I have to say that it wasn’t quite what I expected.

The movie starts with Colonel Hans Landa visiting a family on a dairy farm.  It’s the start of the German occupation of France and Colonel Landa is a Nazi officer looking for the one remaining Jewish family in the area.  He considers himself pretty good at what he does, as do many of the people that he’s come across.  It’s earned him the nickname The Jew Hunter.  He does find the family that he’s looking for, but allows one of them to escape.

Around the same time, American Lieutenant Aldo Raine is talking to his men.  He’s leading a group of men into France to hunt Nazis.  The group is made up of Jews, but come from all over the world.  One has even killed 13 Nazi officers before joining the group, known as the Inglourious Basterds.  The war hasn’t officially started for America, but the Basterds are going over a little early to get things rolling.

Fast forward a few years.  The woman that escaped Col. Landa is now running a theater under an assumed name, Emmanuelle Mimieux.  She’s approached by a Nazi officer, Pvt. Fredrick Zoller, who takes a liking to her.  Understandably, Ms. Mimieux doesn’t like him.  Pvt. Zoller can’t take ‘get lost’ for an answer, so he pursues her and eventually makes her an offer.  It turns out he’s a war hero that stared in a movie about the event that made him so well known.  He wants to use her theater for the premier.

She doesn’t like this at first, but talks it over with her projectionist.  Being that the projectionist is black, he doesn’t like Nazis, either.  The two decide that having so many Nazis in one place might be a good thing.  They hatch a plot to lock the group in and kill them all.

When the Basterds catch wind of the fact that the top four ranking Nazis (including Hitler) will be in attendance, they hatch a plan of their own.  With the help of a German actress/double agent named Bridget von Hammersmark, they can get in and plant explosives to take down the Nazis.

From the coming attractions, I got the impression that the movie was all about the Basterds.  The truth is that you don’t see much of them in the first half of the movie.  It isn’t until the second half that you really get to see more of them.  The movie is split between The Basterds and Mimieux.  I’m not saying that this is bad.  I can understand wanting to show Brad Pitt in the coming attractions.  It’s just that I could see a lot of people wondering if they got the right movie.

I have to warn you that the movie is more fiction than historical.  While some of the events are true, many of the events are not.  From what I can tell, there was no Bridget von Hammersmark, although she may have been based on an actual person.  (I couldn’t find anything beyond a character page in IMDb, but I’m sure I’ll get someone telling me that I’m wrong on this.)

Also, a good deal of the dialogue is subtitled.  As you might expect, much of the movie is in either French or German.  There’s even a little Italian mixed in.  Some of it is in English, but you can still expect to do a lot of reading.  The subtitles were a little small on my screen, but I do have a small screen.  I think whoever did the subtitles was expecting people to have a bigger TV set.

I’m going to have to put this in the 18+ category for the suitability for children.  This is a very violent movie.  When Landa kills the Jewish family, he does so without any sort of feeling or remorse.  He just kills them.  The Basterds do kill a lot of Nazis.  (Raine tells his men that they each owe him 100 kills and they’re expected to scalp those that they kill.)  Those that they don’t kill are given a scar and sent back to their Nazi commanders to tell them who the Basterds are.

On that topic, I did find one plot inconsistency.  Why put all of your top-ranking officials in one place?  As Landa points out, killing the top four will effectively end the war.  Doesn’t this seem too easy?  Even when the president addresses congress, at least one senator, representative or cabinet member is kept in a safe location just in case.  You’d think that at the very least, they’d have tons of security.

At 153 minutes, it’s a pretty long movie.  A little past the halfway mark, I found myself thinking, “crap… I’ve still got an hour to go?”  At least it picked up in the second half.  It took a while to set up the two main plots.   It really wasn’t that bad.  It‘s just that I thought that the movie had progressed more quickly than it really had.  I do think that the movie could have been trimmed by a few minutes in a few places, but nothing really dragged out to the point where I was waiting for that scene to be over.

Overall, I would recommend it.  I just wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids.  There will be a few uncomfortable moments. 

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