Christoph Waltz won his Oscar from his first nomination for portraying Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds.
Christoph Waltz portrays the Nazi S.S. officer Hans Landa who has the nickname the "Jew Hunter" due to his ability to find Jewish people hiding from the Nazis. This is most certainly a juicy villain role that Waltz instantly sinks his teeth into his role from his first scene where he interrogates a French farmer about the whereabouts of a Jewish family who is believed to be in hiding. It is a long drawn out scene but Waltz is brilliant as he displays Hans Landa's unique character, as well as Hans' methods as a detective.
Christoph Waltz in this first scene shows an odd sort of charisma in his performance that is simply perfect for the role of Hans Landa. It is not that he makes Landa likable really but there is an undeniable magnetic quality to his performance. He dominates the screen in every scene showing Hans Landa to be a man who is always in charge no matter what the situation might be. Waltz amplifies Landa's power by always having the utmost assurance in his performance.
What I really like about his performance though is shown best in his first scene as he so well realizes the sophistication and intelligence in Landa. He is brilliant in simply the way he works through the scene as he kindly approaches the farmer with certainly with a sense of superiority, but with a certain gentleness and calmness. Underneath the calm exterior Waltz always shows Landa almost breaks down the farmer with his almost slight and only somewhat related questions.
It would have been exceedingly easy to handle this part of his performance incorrectly. The whole style of Landa frankly with just slight fault could have made his opening interrogation seem implausible. Waltz absolutely nails it an makes the interrogation appropriately intense. He is especially effective in his final scene where he shows the true business side of Landa which is chilling especially in contrast to his earlier approach. Waltz is brilliant leaving absolute no doubt about Landa's abilities.
Waltz actually is not in the film for a great deal of time after the first scene but his impact from his first scene is not forgotten for a moment making his time of return have the impact it should. He stands as a powerful presence through the whole second half of the film. Waltz not only manages to keep Landa an imposing figure in each of scenes. What really makes him threatening though is Waltz manages to keep Landa somewhat ambiguous in his exact motives.
The final scenes of his film there is a rather large decision made by Landa that really could have come across as rather far-fetched. Waltz though throughout managed to establish Landa as more than just an evil Nazi but rather a pompous superior opportunist making his final decisions completely logical in the end. Waltz manages to bring this depth to Landa with a great ease, despite the fact the film gives him only a little time to develop this facet of the character.
If I were to complain about this performance at all it would be he can be somewhat self indulgent at time particularly in his delivery of the line "Bingo" but I would say that even that actually works within his characterization of Landa who is self indulgent in his belief in his own superiority. Waltz simply gives a great memorable villainous performance that manages to be both humorous and chilling, and succeeds with every single challenge found in the role.