Great Character: Lt. Aldo Raine (“Inglourious Basterds”)

February 1st, 2013 by

This month, the focus is on great characters from Quentin Tarantino movies. Today’s guest post by Jason Cuthbert features Lt. Aldo Raine from the movie Inglourious Basterds.

Screenwriter and director Quentin Tarantino spent almost a decade crafting and perfecting the epic scale script for Inglourious Basterds, his biggest box office success since Pulp Fiction (1994) and until Django Unchained (2012). Tarantino destroyed any concerns of successfully selling a historical war movie set in the 1940’s, that also happens to be filled heavily with subtitles, once this Nazi revenge adventure captured an incredible $321 million worldwide gross. The Basterds would get to watch Christoph Waltz, the actor that played their adversary Hans Landa, rightfully win an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. But when it comes to memorable, bull’s eye dialogue-spewing signature Tarantino characters, Landa had a colorfully entertaining opponent on the protagonist side of things – Lt. Aldo Raine played with quirky perfection by Brad Pitt.

Inglourious Basterds plot summary from IMDB:

In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner’s vengeful plans for the same.

Brad Pitt was able to imbue some of that Southern swagger he absorbed from growing up in Oklahoma into the fictional Tennessee native Aldo Raine, a mountain man in the military with a Nazi-scalping nickname “The Apache.” With a brash sense of humor, a wicked neck scar and a fetish for sculpting swastikas in Nazi foreheads, Raine is bringing a cloudy forecast to Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. We first meet Aldo during his personal army recruitment, delivered with a raw, sizzling monologue.

Now that we have heard the threats and the big ballsy briefing from Aldo to his new legion of doom, we soon get to see Aldo Raine back up his mission statement. When he has difficulty turning a captured German Nazi into a traitor, the question becomes, will Raine grow a heart and suddenly show some humane sympathy? Umm…no…that would be a completely different movie altogether.

Raine is not meant by Tarantino to be some “how-to-be-a-hero”; this is the darker side of the good guys, a protagonist willing to sink to the level of his enemy to do him one worse than an eye for an eye: a scalp for a scalp.

Raine sure knows how to take a compliment after brutally branding an enemy with a homemade Nazi logo.

LT. ALDO RAINE: You know how you get to Carnegie Hall, don’t ya? Practice.

Even with the traumatic layers of murder and mayhem staining Raine’s psyche, the guy still manages enough clearity to execute a plan, and get the Basterds to fall in line with it.

LT. ALDO RAINE: Well, I speak the most Italian, so I’ll be your escort. Donowitz speaks the second most, so he’ll be your Italian cameraman. Omar speaks third most, so he’ll be Donny’s assistant.
PFC. OMAR ULMER: I don’t speak Italian.
LT. ALDO RAINE: Like I said, third best. Just keep your fuckin’ mouth shut. In fact, why don’t you start practicing, right now!

With one of the worst human atrocities – the Jewish Holocaust – lurking in the background of Inglourious Basterds, Aldo is immediately given a lot of moral leeway as his efforts help change the history of World Ward II – albeit it in a fictional sense. Aldo gives his best full throttle John Wayne impression, with no apologies to his victims because we are well aware that millions of innocent lives were senselessly taken at the hands of this genocidal squadron, and wish that it could have been prevented in real life.

ALDO RAINE: Nah, see, we don’t like that. We like our Nazis in uniform. That way we can spot ’em just like that. We’re gonna give you a little something you cant take off.

Aldo and his Basterds are Tarantino’s way of getting audiences engaged in conversations about our species horrific past, similar to how Django Unchained has created a national dialogue about the savagely insane system of slavery since its release. Both of these gapingly wide graveyards of hateful homicidal human history make the victims the heroes, giving viewers the opportunity to watch evil empires crumble. Could Quentin Tarantino be planning a trilogy, with Lt. Aldo Raine and Django Freeman being joined by a third film about a pissed off Native American during our countries pilgrim days?

For his unpredictable decisions, his representation of the hate that hate creates, his consistent calm under pressure and quotable quips – Lt. Aldo Raine is one GREAT CHARACTER.

Sometimes nothing can make a character come alive more than a riveting, clear-cut goal, and Raine surely has that, making him an avenging angel of death.

See you in comments to discuss.

Thanks to Jason for the post. Next week: Another Great Character from Quentin Tarantino.

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