Revisionist cinema has found flavor in the box office in numerous instances, be it Westerns or historicals, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), There Will Be Blood (2007), Gladiator (2000) etc. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds(2009) is the latest movie in this genre, if we can regard it as such.
The movie, set mostly in Nazi-occupied France, follows a band of Jewsish-Americans known as “The Basterds” who bring upon themselves the task of spreading fear among the Nazis during the Second World War. Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), the ruthless leader of the gang, takes a commitment from every member to get him a hundred Nazi scalps. The team consists of a motley crew of guerilla soldiers including a renegade German. Incidentally, we have Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie’ Laurent), a Jewish refugee who has fled to France after witnessing the slaughter of her ilk in the hands of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who infamously earned the title of “Jew Hunter”. In France, Shoshanna is running a modest cinema hall, when war hero Frederick Zoller takes an instant liking for her and is very insistent on her friendship. He has starred in a film that glorifies his bravado in the war, and gets his mentor Joseph Goebbels to have it premiered in her cinema. Shoshanna uses this as an opportunity to get her revenge on the Nazis, and plans to blow up the hall on the evening of the premiere. When the ‘Basterds’ get wind of the premiere, they know it’s the best opportunity for them to get as many Nazis as possible in one stroke. The paths of the ‘Basterds’ and ‘Shoshanna’ are waiting to be crossed on that fateful evening of the premiere.
Quentin Tarantino is back with his brand of entertainment with graphic violence in good measure, raw humor and a non-linear narrative. People who have watched Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill would know what know what to expect from ‘Basterds’. The latter is a crackling yarn, given the fact that WW2 is such a perennial favorite among history junkies. Christoph Waltz can well take a bow. He has essayed the role of Hans Landa with great conviction. It is little surprise that he won the Academy award for Best Supporting Actor in 2009. Brad Pitt with his Southern American is absolutely delightful as Lt. Aldo Raine, and had audiences shrieking in the aisles, in a scene of particularly violent interaction with Diane Kruger.
Inglourious Basterds will easily join the list of classics that have revisited WW2, but will be remembered more for its engaging screenplay that has the better part of the film speaking French and German.