Inglourious Basterds is a 2009 black comedy and revisionist war film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger and Mélanie Laurent.
The film tells an alternate history story of two plots to assassinate Nazi Germany’s leadership, one planned by Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent), a young French Jewish cinema proprietor and the other by a team of Jewish American soldiers led by First Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Pitt). Christoph Waltz co-stars as Hans Landa, an SS colonel tracking down Raine’s group and who is connected to Shosanna’s past. The film’s title was inspired by Italian director Enzo G. Castellari’s macaroni combat film The Inglorious Bastards (1978).
In 1941, SS Colonel Hans Landa interrogates French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite about the whereabouts of the last unaccounted-for Jewish family in the area, the Dreyfus family. Landa suspects that they are hiding under the floor, and in exchange for the Germans agreeing to leave his family alone for the rest of the war, LaPadite tearfully confirms it. Landa orders his SS soldiers to shoot through the floorboards, killing all but one of the Dreyfus family; Shosanna, the daughter, escapes. As she runs, Col. Landa decides not to shoot her.
Three years later, Lieutenant Aldo Raine of the First Special Service Force rounds up and recruits Jewish-American soldiers to the Basterds, a paramilitary unit formed to instil fear among the German soldiers by killing and scalping them. The Basterds include Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz and Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz, the latter a rogue German soldier who murdered thirteen Gestapo officers. In Germany, Adolf Hitler interviews a young German soldier, Private Butz, the only survivor of a Basterd attack on his squad, who reveals the details of the attack and that Raine carved the Nazi swastika into Butz’s forehead with a knife so he could never hide that he served in the German Heer.
Four years after the murder of her family, Shosanna is living in Paris and operating a cinema under the name “Emmanuelle Mimieux”. She meets Fredrick Zoller, a celebrated German sniper who killed 250 soldiers in a single battle, and who is starring in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride). Infatuated with Shosanna, Zoller convinces Joseph Goebbels to hold the premiere of the film at her cinema. Landa, who is the head of security for the premiere, interrogates Shosanna about how she acquired the cinema at such a young age, while giving hints that he may know who she is. Landa ultimately forgets his most important question and leaves her to proceed with the premiere. Shosanna plots with her Afro-French lover and projectionist Marcel to kill the Nazi leaders who will attend the premiere by setting the cinema ablaze. Unknown to Shosanna, Intelligence Corps Lieutenant Archie Hicox has been recruited to lead Operation Kino, a British plan to attack the premiere with the Basterds.
Hicox goes to a basement tavern in German-occupied France with Basterds Stiglitz and Wilhelm Wicki to meet an undercover agent, the German film star Bridget von Hammersmark, who will be attending the premiere in Paris. Hicox inadvertently draws the attention of Wehrmacht Sergeant Wilhelm and Gestapo Major Dieter Hellstrom with his unusual German accent and mannerisms. Discovered, the Basterds open fire, after which everyone in the tavern is killed in the ensuing firefight except Sergeant Wilhelm and von Hammersmark, who is wounded. Raine arrives and negotiates with Wilhelm for von Hammersmark’s release, but she shoots Wilhelm when he lowers his guard. Raine, believing von Hammersmark set Hicox and his men up, tortures von Hammersmark, who convinces him that she is not a spy and reveals that Hitler will also be attending the film premiere. Raine decides to continue the mission.
Landa investigates the aftermath at the tavern and finds von Hammersmark’s shoes and a napkin with her signature. At the premiere, two of the Basterds, Omar Ulmer and Donny, join Raine in posing as Italian guests of von Hammersmark, hoping to fool the Germans unfamiliar with the language. However, Landa, who speaks fluent Italian, converses briefly with the Basterds before sending Donowitz and Ulmer to their seats. He takes von Hammersmark to a private room, verifies that the shoe from the tavern fits her, then strangles her to death. Raine and another Basterd, Smithson “The Little Man” Utivich, are taken prisoner, but Landa has Raine contact his superior with the OSS and cuts a deal: he will allow the mission to proceed in exchange for immunity.
During the screening, Zoller slips away to the projection room to see Shosanna. After she rejects his advances, he becomes aggressive. She pretends to acquiesce, then pulls a pistol and shoots him. Zoller, mortally wounded, manages to shoot and kill her before he dies. As Stolz der Nation reaches its climax, spliced-in footage of Shosanna tells the audience in English that they are about to be killed by a Jew. Marcel, having locked the doors of the cinema, ignites a huge pile of flammable nitrate film behind the screen as Shosanna’s image laughs and the theatre goes up in flames. Ulmer and Donowitz break into the opera box containing Hitler and Goebbels, killing them. They then fire their submachine guns into the panicked crowd until the bombs go off, killing everyone in the theatre.
Landa and his radio operator drive Raine and Utivich into Allied territory, where they surrender. Raine however shoots the radio operator before ordering Utivich to scalp him. Despite agreeing to Landa’s deal, Raine has him restrained and carves a swastika into his forehead, professing it to be his “masterpiece
Dirty Dozen Films
- The Dirty Dozen (1967).
- The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (1985).
- The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987).
- The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988).
Trivia & Goofs
- Three years after The Dirty Dozen was released, Too Late the Hero, a film also directed by Aldrich, was described as a “kind of sequel to The Dirty Dozen”.
- The 1969 Michael Caine film Play Dirty follows a similar theme of convicts-recruited-as-soldiers.
- The 1977 Italian war film The Inglorious Bastards is a loose remake of The Dirty Dozen.
- Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds was later derived from the English-language title of director Enzo G. Castellari’s 1977 war film The Inglorious Bastards.
- Tarantino wrote the script in 1998, but struggled with the ending and chose instead to direct the two-part film Kill Bill.
- After directing Death Proof in 2007, Tarantino returned to work on Inglourious Basterds. A co-production of the United States and Germany, the film began principal photography in October 2008 and was filmed in Germany and France with a $70 million production budget.
- Inglourious Basterds grossed over $321 million in theatres worldwide, making it Tarantino’s highest-grossing film.
Production & Filming Details
- Director: Quentin Tarantino.
- Producer: Lawrence Bender.
- Writer: Quentin Tarantino.
- Cinematography: Robert Richardson.
- Editor: Sally Menke.
- Production: A Band Apart and Studio Babelsberg.
- Distributor: The Weinstein Company (US) and Universal Pictures (International).
- Release Date: 20 May 2009 (Cannes Film Festival), 20 August 2009 (Germany), and 21 August 2009 (US).
- Running Time: 153 Minutes.
- Country: US and Germany.
- Language: English, German, and French.