|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
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. The time frame of the film 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 Jewish survivor of an attack led by the "Jew Hunter" that had killed all her family. 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, a French dairy farmer, over rumours that he had been hiding a Jewish family, the Dreyfus. 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 in order to kill the Jews.
Shosanna manages to survive the attack and by 1944 emerges to assume the identity of "Emmanuelle Mimieux". She had 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. Since he feels attracted to Shosanna, he manages to convince Goebbels to hold the premiere in her cinema. Shosanna, however, does not reciprocate his feelings.
Shosanna realises 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 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 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. Hammersmark is wounded in her left leg.
Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), 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 a 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. He violently strangles her to death as a traitor, and orders the arrest of Raine.
In the closing stages of the film, Landa reveals himself to be a turncoat. He attempts to reach a deal with Raine's commanding officer 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.
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 nitrate film reels, which are highly combustible. Shosanna is unable to get rid of Zoller, who angrily confronts Shosanna about her behavior, and 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 was strapped to the Basterd's legs 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 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".
The Basterds (The Americans)
- Brad Pitt as 1st Lieutenant Aldo Raine aka "Aldo the Apache": A fast-talking, thickly accented, vengeance-driven hillbilly from Maynardville, Tennessee, who puts together a team of eight Jewish American soldiers. He bears a rope burn on his neck, which was never mentioned in the film (the script hints that once upon a time, he might have survived a lynching somewhere). One of the film's main protagonists: the character has been described as "a voluble, freewheeling outlaw" similar to Jules Winnfield from Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. His first appearance in the film is a subtle homage to George Carlin's The Indian Sergeant routine. The character's name is a tribute to the character actor Aldo Ray, who appeared as a tough soldier in many WWII films such as Battle Cry and What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?.
- Eli Roth as Staff Sergeant Donny Donowitz aka "The Bear Jew": A huge and obnoxious "baseball bat-swinging Nazi hunter" from Boston who is known as "The Bear Jew" among Nazis. Some of them seem to fear that Donowitz is in fact, a vengeful golem, summoned by an angry rabbi. The role was originally conceived for Adam Sandler, who was in talks with Tarantino before declining due to schedule conflicts with the film Funny People. Roth also directed the film-within-a-film, entitled "Nation's Pride" (Stolz der Nation) which is a homage to Leni Riefenstahl's wartime propaganda flicks.
- Til Schweiger as Hugo Stiglitz: A strange and quiet German-born psychopath, former Feldwebel in the Wehrmacht who is recruited by Aldo to kill other Nazis. The character's name is a tribute to the famous 70s B-movie mexploitation actor Hugo Stiglitz.
- Gedeon Burkhard as Wilhelm Wicki: An Austro-German Jew who immigrated to the United States, becoming a citizen as the Third Reich established itself in Europe.
- B. J. Novak as PFC Smithson Utivich aka "The Little Man" - In an interview with Esquire Magazine, Novak theorizes that PFC Utivich came from a family that named their son Smithson in an attempt to integrate themselves into the WASP-y mainstream and that signing up to fight the Nazis is his attempt to reclaim his Jewish heritage.
- Omar Doom as PFC Omar Ulmer
- Samm Levine as PFC Gerold Hirschberg
- Paul Rust as PFC Andy Kagan: A character Tarantino added in after meeting Rust.
- Michael Bacall as PFC Michael Zimmerman.
- Carlos Fidel as PFC Simon Sakowitz.
- Michael Fassbender as Lt. Archie Hicox: A "snappy and handsome British lieutenant" and a film critic in his pre-war civilian life. He is described in the script as a "young George Sanders type". One of the film's main protagonists, albeit introduced later in the movie. The character was originally intended to be played by Tim Roth, then later by Simon Pegg.
- Mike Myers as General Ed Fenech: A "legendary British military mastermind" who provides a plot to kill Nazi leadership. Based on the older George Sanders.
- Rod Taylor as Winston Churchill: The then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
- Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus: A young French-Jewish girl on the run. One of the film's main protagonists, Tarantino states that Shosanna was "always a main character".
- Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Himmelstein: An elderly Jewish woman living in Boston. Although filmed, the scenes featuring Mrs. Himmelstein drinking tea with Donny Donowitz (and signing his trademark baseball bat afterwards) were cut from the final film. Tarantino says that he might use the footage in the prequel instead.
The Axis Powers
- Christoph Waltz as Standartenführer Hans Landa aka "The Jew Hunter": A romantic, yet utterly sinister pipe-smoking Nazi Waffen-SS-turned-SD officer so nicknamed in reference to his keen ability to locate Jews hiding throughout France. Tarantino claims that if he had not found a perfect actor for the role, he "might have pulled the plug on the whole movie". Tarantino also remarked that this might be the greatest character he's ever written. A linguistic genius (it is obvious from the dialogue that he speaks perfect English, German, French and Italian) and a charming detective, Colonel Hans Landa is the primary antagonist of the film. For his performance, Christoph Waltz won the Best Actor Award in the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
- Daniel Brühl as Gefreiter Fredrick Zoller: A young arrogant German Wehrmacht war hero starring in Joseph Goebbels' newest propaganda film entitled "Stolz der Nation" (which is actually directed by Eli Roth who is Jewish). This character name shares similarities to producer Frederick Zollo for whom Eli Roth was an intern for while attending NYU.
- August Diehl as Sturmbannführer Dieter Hellstrom: A uniformed Gestapo officer.
- Sönke Möhring as Gefreiter Butz.
- Richard Sammel as Feldwebel Werner Rachtman.
- Sylvester Groth as Joseph Goebbels.
- Martin Wuttke as Adolf Hitler.
- Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark: A popular film star in Nazi Germany and a spy for the Allies.
- Samuel L. Jackson as The Raconteur
- Bo Svenson as American Colonel: Quentin Tarantino said he gave Svenson a small cameo that will be hard to recognise. He is the colonel in Nations Pride. He is seen briefly in in the movie but can be seen more close up in the Nations Pride trailer
- Julie Dreyfus as Francesca Mondino: Joseph Goebbel's mistress, French interpreter and favourite actress to appear in his films.
- Ludger Pistor as Wolfgang: A role Tarantino added specifically for him.
- Christian Berkel as Eric: The Barkeeper.
- Maggie Cheung as Madame Ada Mimeux: Although her scenes were cut from the Cannes cut for length reasons, Cheung played Madame Mimieux, a beautiful French woman who owned the cinema marquee in Paris where most of the movie is set.
- Denis Menochet as Perrier LaPadite.
- Jacky Ido as Marcel: Shosanna's beloved and a projectionist at Mimeux's cinema. A man of quiet dignity.
- Jana Pallaske (rumored) as an unconfirmed character.
- Enzo G. Castellari as Obergruppenführer: A nameless Nazi General, although strangely credited as "himself" in the film. Castellari had done a Nazi cameo in his own Inglorious Bastards and reprised the role in this movie as well, but under a different rank and SS organization.
Harvey Keitel lends his voice as the Basterds' commanding officer, heard only over the radio in a call to Raine and Landa. According to IMDb, Tarantino is in the film as the voice of an American solider in Eli Roth's "Nation's Pride", and a dummy of him is the first dead nazi scalped in the film, and finally, he is also a fake shemp for Christoph Waltz's hands when he strangles Bridget von Hammersmark. Tarantino originally talked to Simon Pegg about portraying Lt. Archie Hicox, but the actor was forced to drop out due to scheduling difficulties having already agreed to appear in Spielberg's Tintin adaptation. However, Pegg did make Tarantino promise to cast him in his next film. Also, Tarantino originally sought for Leonardo DiCaprio to be cast as Hans Landa, a poetic Nazi colonel targeted by the resistance. The director then decided to instead have the character played by a German actor. The role ultimately went to Christoph Waltz, an Austrian actor who, according to Tarantino, "gave me my movie back." Jack White & Adam Sandler were both rumored to play a pair of the Basterds at one point.
- Weinstein Co. Up Against the Wall. Variety. Archived from the original on 2009-08-28. Retrieved on 2009-08-06.
- "Kruger, Waltz join Tarantino film", www.variety.com, 2008-08-29.
- "[tarantino.info tarantino.info/]", 2008-10-09. Cite error: Invalid
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Credits & Characters
- Empire Magazine, March 2009
- Festival deCannes.com
- "Sylvester Groth im Filmteam", www.bild.de, 2008-09-23.
- Fetival de cannes .com
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