Best of the Decade #5: Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds was probably my most anticipated film of 2009, and it had been a long time coming. I remember first hearing about the idea of a Tarantino WWII film and wondered what that could look like. The end result surpassed even my already high expectations, cementing itself as one of my favourite theatre going experiences of the decade.

The idea of paying tribute to and ultimately elevating genre films seems to work quite well for Quentin. It succeeds because it’s done out of love. He approaches the material with a sincere sense of adoration where others might come off as condescending. His passion for the sort of simple storytelling laid out in some of his favourite exploitation films ends up providing the groundwork for which he builds upon, resulting in something fresh and exciting. Even though Inglourious Basterds plays pretty straight for the most part, you can still catch those moments where Tarantino can’t help but remind himself — and the audience — that what they’re watching was born out of exploitation.

Some people complained about the long scenes of talking throughout the film — often people who claim to love Tarantino’s dialogue — but I felt that putting Quentin’s wordplay to work in a suspenseful interrogative environment was a wonderful choice. In the case of Inglourious Basterds, the ‘bomb under the table’ is replaced by a piece of strudel, a shoddy German accent and…well, a bomb. It’s all about the perceptions and deception, whether it be a French man sheltering jews, a jew masquerading as a French cinema owner, American G.I.’s disguised as Italian stuntmen or German’s declaring false loyalty to the Führer; everybody’s got a secret, and Nazi Colonel Hans Landa — a man with an agenda of his own — is prepared to get to the bottom of it all.

Leone meets Hitchcock meets DePalma (Hitchcock by proxy), Inglourious Basterds is a fun, suspenseful, romantic, stylish and refreshing twist on the WWII film that easily holds a top five spot as one of my personal favourite films of the decade.

Check out previous entries from our Top 20 Films of the ’00s.

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  • Henrik

    I loved this movie!

  • “Hitchcock by proxy” is a perfect description of this flick Mr. Cheel.

    I salute you Captain Grumpy for pointing out that this film is actually NOT a WAR film, a MAN ON A MISSION MOPVIE or anything remotely approaching that ilk … It IS ultimately a SUSPENSE movie. And THEE being the first person I’ve read to actually point this out … I would like to shake your hand and stare at you for a little too long.

    Basterds (above every other film I saw this year) displayed the sheer cinematic power, brutality and downright entertainment of the classic “suspense” film – epitomised by Sir Hitch and his Fuct-up American Padawan … Filtered by a video-store reared fellow yank who saw films via an Italian POV filter .. I’m babbling…

    Ultimately ..

    A measured and considered review of a movie that succeeeded despite itself.

  • Napalm

    One of my favorites of the decade as well. The acting, dialogs, direction.. everything about this movie is just spot on! And it also has a great repeat value! Good choice!

  • The Man

    Better than Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2? I don’t know bout that, Like the movie quite a bit though.

  • Maopheus

    I like this movie and have no complaints really about it, but for some reason I just didn’t feel it was the Tarantino movie that I was really dying to see. Sure, he can make any genre great, but I wasn’t thinking WWII. For that reason, I don’t think it really ought to be on the list. Of course I don’t like lists anyway, but if I had my druthers, for example, 300 would be way up there. It’s one of my all-time favorites. It probably won’t be, but I would be pleasantly surprised if the Junkies thought like I did and thought that it was just a plain kick-ass movie, really took unashamedly macho and bombastic filmmaking to the hilt, and popularized a look and feel that has been imitated quite a lot since then.

  • KeithTalent

    Tied for my favourite film of the year with A Serious Man and both would easily make my best of the decade list.

    So many great things about this film and after 3 viewings so far, I can’t get enough of it. Great choice.

  • Rick

    ok let me just say

    saw it for the first time last ngiht.

    it was ok

    but i was sorely dissapointed. I thought it was going to have more time with the bastards. but the only parts you saw of the bastards were the parts you saw on the previews. why would you set up a movie with the previews making them look like the primary characters while leaving everything else out and completely monopolizing said movie with only the “everything else” part. i felt robbed. it should of been called “tales of war” or “people who want to betray, and or kill hitler and all the nazis feat. the bastards that will only appear in a total of ten minutes”

    i don’t know. i just don’t like the fact they set up the movie to look like the bastards are the main part when in the end they only played a very small roll compared to all the other characters.

    good movie, but does not deserve to be number five. there are much more deserving movies
    (Cough* dark knight *cough)

  • Tommy

    Welcome the world of hollywood marketing.

  • My understanding is that all the characters are in fact ‘basterds’. (Cough* Dark Knight would need a stepladder to kiss Inglourious Basterds’ ass *cough)

  • Anthony

    Most overrated movie of 2009 along with Watchmen.

  • xego

    @7@9

    I am so glad I got up off my ass and saw this in the theater…what an experience! I saw the “Dark Knight” in theaters as well and as good as it was It didn’t hold a candle.

    I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t basterd commando scenes…That said I was in no way prepared for how deftly written this film would be. It certainly deserves it’s place on the list.

    I didn’t include it on my list of the best of the decade because I based my list on the DVDs and their rewatchability, I won’t own a copy until 2010…

  • Swarez

    While I hated Death Proof I wasn’t as excited to see this as many were. But when I finally sat down and watched it I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly because it’s not a traditional war film in the sense that there would be tons of action. Secondly that the Basterds are very little in it and thirdly, the film is almost as a whole made up of scenes of people talking in a room and never once was I bored or felt that it was overly long.
    Wonderful film all in all. Good on ya Quentin.

  • Tommy

    I liked Death Proof, but hated Planet Terror.

    Too many people like to accept any Tarantino flick as a masterpiece. Please! Other than Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, the rest suck.

  • Soop

    THERE WILL BE BLOOD is a far superior film in my eyes. Thought it seems like P.T Anderson and Quentin Tarantino are always fighting for my affection…Anderson simply destroyed Tarantino’s attempt this time.

    There is much more depth in Anderson’s portrayal of his characters, and not to mention the “message” he is trying to convey. Tarantino has definitely proved himself worthy of some of the top filmmakers of all time…but he still has much to learn. As much as justified violence, and superb dialogue goes, Tarantino has mastered these concepts. However, the way Anderson gives justification to his characters just seems to work flawlessly, and not due to a comedic turn of events, as seems to be the case in a lot of Tarantino’s work, but a deep seeding, human, and mature portrayal of a particular person.

  • Rick

    i’m sorry but no. in no way did the basterds even come close to being better then the dark knight. and through the marketing and whole set up of the movie the basterds were infact the soldiers that called themselves the basterds. Not the jewish girl and her black lover. i was hoping for a robin hood kill the nazis and show the soldiers fucking shit up. instead of two minutes of them here two minutes of them there. the dark knight will be remembered and re-watched, this movie will fade out of memory.

  • KeithTalent

    Dark Knight is good, but it is not even in the same league as Basterds. The opening scene alone is better than anything in DK, I could watch that over and over never get tired of it. It was much better than I expected as I was thinking it was going to be an endless stream of mugging to the camera by Pitt et al. with no real cohesive plot, but the story grabbed me and all of the supplementary characters and storylines are what really brought it home for me.

    Amazing piece of work.

  • “I liked Death Proof, but hated Planet Terror.

    Too many people like to accept any Tarantino flick as a masterpiece. Please! Other than Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, the rest suck.”

    Hmm…Tom, you do realize that in your statement, you claim that you like Death Proof, Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. That leaves 2 out of 6 films that you might not have liked, Jackie Brown and Inglourious Basterds. That sounds like a pretty good ratio to me.

  • Rick

    the bastards was an over all predictable movie albeit great script. the dark knight you had no idea what was going to happen. Not to mention perhaps one of the greatest performances ever to grace the screen (heath ledgers portrail of the joker). i will admit that first scene was awesome but after that what’s memorable about this movie? what will make it last? what will make this movie resognate for years to come? the only thing said about this movie will be in regards to QT next film and is it better or worse then inglorious bastards?

    i’m sorry but this movie was all inglorious and no bastards.

  • KeithTalent

    I’d say it was more glorious than inglourious!

    I’d put Waltz’s performance up against Ledger’s. Ledger was great, no doubt, put everytime Waltz came on the screen I was on the edge of my seat. He owns this movie.

    I also found DK much more predictable than IB, aside from the Two-Face bit, you kind of know where things are going in DK. I mean it’s still a comic book movie and it feels like one, while IB had a lot more interesting elements to it and things I was still discussing and trying to figure out after the movie ended. That did not really happen for me with DK aside from wondering what villains were going to be in the next sequel.

  • Rick

    What was there to wonder about? There was nothing to this movie besides the fact that people are trying to kill Hitler. Sure you wanted to catch the joker but you didn’t know what the joker was going to do next. Or what twist was going to be made. And yes it was a comic book movie. But the best one ever. There was nothing cool in inglorious bastards. Just a bunch of talking and plotting till at the end everything blows up. What waltz did for you, is what heath did for me. The only difference is that the joker is not just a physically insane creepy physical villain. But he is psychologically terrifying. Waltz there wasn’t much to it then just trying to come off superior and intimidating.

  • xego

    What the hell does the IB and the DK have to do with each other? This whole thread is random and insensible. They are two completely different kinds of movies handled in completely different fashions. It makes about as much sense to compare DK with Lost in Translation. If you want to compare DK compare it to other comic book films. If you want to compare IB than compare it to “Hudson Hawk” like any rational thinking person would…

  • Greg

    Hudson Hawk. Well done.

  • Tommy

    Hmm…Tom, you do realize that in your statement, you claim that you like Death Proof, Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. That leaves 2 out of 6 films that you might not have liked, Jackie Brown and Inglourious Basterds. That sounds like a pretty good ratio to me.
    Posted by Jay C. on December 24th, 2009
    ———————————————————

    His name is attached to a lot more than that other than directing. I’m talking about the fanboys that jizz themselves when his name is mentioned. Even worse when they anticipate a new film of his as that “masterpiece” without seeing it.

    I still say my favourite is Reservoir Dogs with Death Proof maybe a distant second.

  • Josh

    Tarantino seems to suffer from a cult backlash. Just because people loved Pulp Fiction others feel the néed to shit on it. Just like with comic book movies, some people seem to hate them before ever seeing anything about it. Calling it a bad film is just stupid because it isn’t one. If you say you don’t like it, ok, fine. But, saying it sucks and it’s overrated simply means you’re an idiot.

  • Tommy

    Ok Josh, I take it you are one of those fanboys, eh? :D

  • Piny Tenis

    ok…hudson hawk!?!?!? lmfao dude! nice wit!

    excuse me but really was heath ledger really that good did you like his gay boy oops i mean cowboy movie too or is that too gay not enough underpants over tights and gregarious costumes in that huh!? and before that what did heath do that movie about being a junkie, ok and that movie about being a medieval knight and getting the girl and killing the baddy!! Get over Heath, already!

    although i have been sucked into the dark knight vs inglourious basterds debate, i am still not quite sure why?

    So tarrentino isnt perfect and nor is IB, but it entertained me…

    one more comment, the nazi guy not psychologically insidious enough for ya? … you do realise the nazis actually did kill 6 million jews and the joker didnt kill anyone… you do actually get that dont you?

  • Piny Tenis

    sorry i’m back….. do germans feel good whent they play call of duty 3 and other kill nazi games…. i kind of feel sorry for them, dont you? i mean you could be killing your grandad!

  • Nick Robertson

    Not cool with the Ledger/gay role hate.

  • Piny Tenis

    why is it not cool to think heath ledger is massively overrated! as for the gay part, i was merely pointing out that broke back mountain was his only other good role the rest of his career was dross! I aint saying he was bad actor but if all jack nicholson had done was batman he wouldnt really have the acclaim he has but hey jack nicholson is a damn fine actor with resume to prove it. The joker, who cares, yes heath owned dark knight true but is it really such a good movie? sorry but i am on the no side of this. finally before you cut a large “h” into my forehead for homophobe, was you actually able to sit through the entire broke back mountain movie? I couldnt because although i dont hate gay ppl i really dont want to know what they get up to in a tent when it gets cold! Likewise i tend to dislike any movie that resorts to hetro love scenes too!