In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I have never been the biggest Quentin Tarantino fan. Don't mistake me, I respect the guy, I admire his work, and I'm glad that he's in the world making movies -- but for reasons even I don't fully understand his movies have always left me a little cold, at least until I saw his WWII genre bender Inglourious Basterds (I know, I'm a little late to the game, but sometimes when movies are your job, you get very little time to watch them). There were so many scenes to choose from that could demonstrate just what it was about this movie that had me so hooked: Shosanna meeting her would-be murderer, Colonel Landa (*Christopher Waltz), the introduction to *Hans Stieglitz (Til Schweiger). But if forced to choose, I'm going to have to go with the scene in that little French tavern when Operation Kino comes to a grinding halt.
In one of Tarantino's best moments of on-screen tension, the audience can only watch helplessly as years of plotting to end the madness of Hitler hinges on a German movie star (Diane Kruger) and a British film critic in service of the queen against a Nazi officer with an ear for accents. If you haven't seen the movie I won't reveal how it all turns out, but lets just say Tarantino gets to put one of his best known traits as a filmmaker to good use: a (very) bloody resolution.
*Correction: Proving that typos can get the best of anyone: Schweiger played the Nazi-killing Hugo Stiglitz and Landa was brought to life by Christoph Waltz.
After the jump: "We ain't in the prisoner-taking business..."
What I love about the scene is that considering how packed it is with detail and information, everything that takes place is only there in the service of the story and in setting the time and place. Now usually when it comes to Tarantino's traits as a filmmaker, I always felt that he would let his scenes go on a little long for no particular reason other than he was having so much fun filming it (and if you need an example, think of that diner scene in Death Proof). But in Basterds he uses his skill with a slow burn to build the tension to an almost unbearable level, and suddenly the in-jokes and sly references don't take you out of the action, they just pull you in a little further.
Now you can find the scene in question out there, but unfortunately the only copy I could get my hands on was as illegal as they come, so I'll leave it to you to search it out. So instead I will give you the runner up -- a scene that really needs no introduction: The Bear Jew.