DVD review: ‘Inglourious Basterds’Written by Michael Siebenaler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“The German will be sickened by us, the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us,” Brad Pitt says as Lt. Aldo Raine, who leads the rag-tag group of World War II Nazi killers named The Basterds in director Quentin Tarantino’s two hour and 33 minute war drama, Inglourious Basterds, now available on a two-disc special edition DVD.
The even-keeled, Southern charmer Aldo has some formidable adversaries including Christophe Waltz in a star-making role as Nazi Col. Hans Landa, an incredibly observant and intelligent “Jew Hunter” who drives the plot and delivers his dialogue well. The more physical threat is Nazi Major Dieter Hellstrom, played by August Diehl. Both Nazi officers are intelligent threats who would make crack detectives in any other situation. In the obvious hero-villain scenarios, their Nazi association creates fear based on audience knowledge. Tarantino puts this film in the hands of his characters, not history, though audiences can easily spot several historical characters from various nations.
French actress Melanie Laurent delivers a standout performance as Shosanna Dreyfus, a French cinema manager who meets Fredrick Zoller, played by Daniel Bruhl, who’s a cinema fan, an admirer of Shosanna’s and also a Nazi officer. Their predictably complicated relationship fits perfectly into the plot. Hostel writer/director Eli Roth fits right into the violence as Sgt. Donny Donowitz, a.k.a. “The Bear Jew.” The Basterds love watching him do his work on the Nazis, which involves a baseball bat. “It’s the closest to movies we get,” says Raine about Donowitz. Besides his love of baseball, audiences get limited character background, as Donowitz mainly engages in some intense action, including the indelible climax sequence with Pfc. Omar Ulmer, played by Omar Doom.
Til Schweiger plays Nazi defector Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz. He gets a great introduction and even better background story as the film switches gears a bit into modern times. The Basterds recruit him and
Cpt. Wilhelm Wicki, played by Gedeon Burkhard, to “go pro” and get payback on their former allies. B.J. Novak has a small but notable role as Basterd team member Pfc. Smithson Utivich while Mike Myers reflects the British Allies’ role in a key sequence as General Ed Fenech who briefs Lt. Archie Hicox, played by Michael Fassbender, on a special mission.
Tarantino includes several crowd-pleasing elements and considerations throughout the plot including a fictional Nazi regime “endgame” scenario that every Allied soldier might imagine at that time. The screenplay would have more appeal with an increased focus on The Basterds while the director works wonders with his material. His doorway shot in the beginning sequence echoes great Westerns like The Searchers while great point-of-view angles and a top angled tracking shot of Shosanna entering the theater lobby makes audiences forget about the film’s considerable length. The only notable edit would be an unnecessary flashback that repeats a sequence between Landa and an escapee.
The first disc contains the “film within the film” – Nation’s Pride, three extended and alternate scenes plus U.S., international and Japanese previews of this film’s theatrical release. The DVD extras on the second disc include more detailed supplementary materials, especially a roundtable discussion with Pitt, film historian/New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell (who also appears in a ten minute poster gallery featurette explaining inspirations behind this film), and Tarantino doing what he does best – talk. His infectious excitement and explanatory stories add an extra kick to the special features, which also include a making of Nation’s Pride featurette, a salute to the original 1978 film and two conversation style featurettes with Rod Taylor who portrays Winston Churchill in the film. The “Hi Sallys” greetings to editor Sally Menke and “Camera Angel” featurettes capture comical moments among the filming.
Digital copy included. Languages and subtitles available in English, French and Spanish. This film definitely warrants a high recommendation (***1/2 and creates a unique cinematic experience, which keeps people talking, especially about a few open-ended elements like what happened to a Frenchman’s three daughters. Rated R for strong graphic violence, menace, language and brief sexuality. Also available on Blu-ray and single disc DVD edition.