Quentin Tarantino (written by)
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21 August 2009 (USA) more
Action | Drama | War more
The main theme of the film is revenge. The film is set in an alternate history of the Second World War in which the entire top leadership of Nazi Germany, namely Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Bormann attend a film premiere in Paris celebrating the exploits of a German sniper who had managed to kill 300 American soldiers in Italy. Most of the film's timeframe is set in early June 1944, after the D-Day landings but before the liberation of Paris.
The film tracks the separate attempts to kill Hitler by two disparate forces, one being the "Basterds", a motley crew of Jewish American soldiers out for revenge against the Nazis. The Basterds have a modus operandi whereby each man must cut off the scalp of a dead Nazi soldier, with orders to get 100 scalps each. The Basterds allow one German soldier to survive each incident so as to spread the news of the terror of their attacks. However, the Basterds carve a swastika into the forehead of that German. The other force concerns Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), the only survivor of a Jewish family killed by the Jew Hunter, who plots her own revenge on the Nazis. The Basterds and Shosanna remain unaware of each other throughout the film.
The film opens in 1941 with Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) of the Waffen-SS, proudly known as the "Jew Hunter", interrogating Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), a French dairy farmer, over rumours that he had been hiding a Jewish family. Landa manages to break down LaPadite and locates the hiding place of the Jews underneath the floorboards. He orders his soldiers to fire into the floorboards, killing all but the teenage Shosanna.
Four years later, by 1944, Shosanna has assumed the identity of "Emmanuelle Mimieux". How she manages to do so is not revealed. She has also become the proprietress of a cinema, which is chosen by Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a spotlight-hungry sniper-turned-actor whose exploits are celebrated in the Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (A Nation's Pride), as the setting for the film premiere. He is attracted to Shosanna and convinces Goebbels to hold the premiere in her cinema. Shosanna does not reciprocate Zoller's feelings.
Shosanna realizes that the presence of so many high ranking Nazi officials and officers provides an excellent opportunity for revenge. She resolves to burn down her cinema using the massive quantities of flammable nitrate film in her storage rooms during the premiere and makes a fourth reel in which she tells the Nazis present of her Jewish identity and revenge.
In the meantime, the British have also learned of the Nazi leadership's plan to attend the premiere and dispatch a British officer, Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), to Paris to lead an attack on the cinema with the aid of the "Basterds" and a German double agent, an actress by the name of Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger).
Hammersmark arranges to meet Hicox and the Basterds in the basement of a French tavern. Unbeknown to her, however, the night of the rendezvous is also the occasion of a German staff sergeant (Alexander Fehling) celebrating the birth of his son with his soldier comrades. One of the German soldiers present strikes up a conversation with Hicox and notices that his accent is "odd". An SS officer (August Diehl) who is in the tavern as well also notices that odd accent. When Hicox gives the wrong three fingered order for whiskies (without using his thumb, a traditional German gesture), the SS officer realizes their deception. A firefight breaks out in which the British officer and two of the "Basterds" are killed as is everyone in the tavern except Hammersmark, who is wounded in her left leg.
Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a U.S. Army second lieutenant in the First Special Service Force  and the commanding officer of the Basterds, interrogates Hammersmark and decides to continue the operation against the cinema under the guise of Italians as suicide bombers. Colonel Landa, now an SD officer, is able to retrieve one of Hammersmark's shoes from the scene of the firefight at the tavern and also an autographed napkin which Hammersmark had signed for the staff sergeant's son. He approaches Hammersmark and Raine in the cinema lobby and is able to easily see through their disguises, as none, even Raine, can speak any Italian or German. He questions Hammersmark alone and makes her try on the shoe he had retrieved from the tavern. It is a perfect fit. He violently strangles her to death as a traitor, and orders the arrest of Raine.
In the closing stages of the film Quentin Tarantino sets the quirks which show that the film is in an alternative universe. Landa reveals himself to be a turncoat. He attempts to reach a deal with Raine's commanding officer (Harvey Keitel) via a two way radio in which he proposes to allow the assassination attempt against Hitler and the rest of the Nazi leadership to continue in return for safety, privileges, money, medals and a house for himself. He also reveals that he had planted Raine's stick of dynamite in Hitler's box at the cinema meaning that there are now three attempts against Hitler's life.
Zoller, uncomfortable with the way he is portrayed killing Americans in Stolz der Nation, leaves the cinema auditorium and makes his way to the projectionist's room where Shosanna is planning her attack. Shosanna's assistant and lover, Marcel (Jacky Ido), is waiting behind the cinema screen ready to set alight the film reels. Shosanna is unable to get rid of Zoller, who angrily confronts Shosanna about her behavior. She shoots him in the back, mortally wounding him. Afterwards, in an apparent moment of pity, realizing that Zoller is alive, she rolls him over and he in turn shoots her dead.
When the fourth reel of the film starts with Shosanna's speech to the Nazis assembled in the auditorium that she is a Jew and the audience is about to burn, Marcel sets the nitrate film alight thus causing a pandemonium in the auditorium. Meanwhile, Donny (Eli Roth) and Omar (Omar Doom), who had been seated amongst the Nazis in the auditorium, ambush Hitler's box and are able to gun down Hitler, Goebbels and the other Nazi leaders. As the cinema is engulfed in flames, Raine's men fire randomly into the crowd, who are attempting to flee. Escape is impossible, as Marcel had earlier locked and barred the auditorium doors. Additionally, the dynamite that Landa had planted in Hitler's box, as well as the dynamite strapped to the Basterds' legs, now goes off. The cinema is destroyed in the subsequent inferno, killing all inside.
Landa sets off with Raine towards the American lines in Normandy where he intends to turn himself in, as part of the deal he had made with Raine's commanding officer. He surrenders to Raine and hands over his gun. Raine orders Landa to be handcuffed and shoots dead Landa's driver. The film ends with Raine carving a swastika into Landa's forehead and declaring that it may just be his greatest "masterpiece".