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Inglourious Basterds
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Reviewed on 2009-08-21
Received[3]  out of 4 stars
GenreAction / Drama / War
The lives of 6 million Jews may not have been lost in the Holocaust if Adolf Hitler had been a better painter.

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) envisions a completely different outcome for World War II in this Jewish wish-fulfillment revenge fantasy. As an artistic flourish, he borrowed the title of deliberately misspelled words from a little-known 1978 Italian film by Enzo G. Castellari.

Tarantino pays homage to his love of movies by mixing familiar war themes with the spaghetti Western. The movie is divided into five chapters spread out over a lengthy 2˝ hours. The movie is dialogue-driven with very little in the way of action.

The opening segment set in 1941 is titled “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France.” It makes it clear that this entire yarn is a fairy tale.

Although Brad Pitt is the main drawing card, the real star of the movie is multi-linguistic Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (winner of the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival), who plays SS Col. Hans Landa aka “The Jew Hunter.” Landa interrogates and intimidates a French dairy farmer into revealing that he is hiding a Jewish family. This excruciatingly long scene includes the two men smoking pipes and Landa drinking two glasses of fresh milk before a shot is fired.

The other key character in the movie is Shosanna Dreyfus (French actress Melanie Laurent), who manages to escape from the farmhouse. She appears later in the movie as the owner/operator of a cinema in Paris.

The next chapter has the same title as the movie. We are introduced to a rogue group of eight Jewish-American bushwhacking guerillas led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt), a redneck with a distinctive Southern drawl. He is nicknamed “Apache” because his ancestral family tree includes American Indian blood. He takes great pleasure in carving swastikas into the foreheads of the few German soldiers that survive. He requires 100 Nazi scalps from each one of his men.

The Basterds’ mission is to kill as many Nazis as possible and put the fear of God into the Aryan people with their cruel barbarism.

Sgt. Donnie Donowitz (Eli Roth) is known as “the Bear Jew.” He uses a Louisville Slugger baseball bat to beat German soldiers to death. Another member of the group is Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger), a German who has defected to the Allied side. He rarely speaks and lets his sharp knife do his talking. The Basterds break him out of jail in a scene reminiscent of “The Dirty Dozen.”

The back stories of the other Jewish bad-boy avengers and how Raine ended up in charge are missing from the screenplay.

Tarantino takes a page out of the Mel Brooks’ playbook by portraying Hitler (Martin Wuttke) as a bumbling idiot. The movie is laced with satirical humor.

The climax of the movie takes place in 1944. Shosanna, now pretending to be a gentile, is being romantically pursued by German war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). He is just a uniform to her. Zoller, in an effort to impress the young woman, convinces Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, to switch venues for the red carpet premiere of “Nation’s Pride,” a pseudo-Nazi propaganda film, to Shosanna’s movie palace. All the bigwigs in the Nazi High Command will attend. Shosanna sees this as an opportunity to take revenge on the Nazis for wiping out her entire family.

Landa is put in charge of security for the event. Shosanna plans to lock all the doors and burn the place to the ground. Meanwhile, the Basterds are planning a secret military operation to infiltrate the event disguised as an Italian film crew with explosives hidden underneath their tuxedos.

With all the rotten eggs in one basket, the history books can be rewritten with a swifter end to hostilities.

Tarentino shows his genius as both a screenwriter and director. He puts his international cast through their paces in this bizarre story that mixes real and fictitious characters. The movie could have been stripped down with better editing, but it still manages to hold your interest. The movie is imaginative and so full of curveball ideas that you can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Tarentino knows how to ratchet up the tension before the blood-soaked violence and explosive action kick in. Samuel L. Jackson lends his voice to narrate a few key passages.

This has to be regarded as the most unusual movie of the year. Tarentino facetiously includes in the dialogue the line that “this might be my masterpiece.”

Roth, a director in his own right, may have the perfect label of “kosher porn” for these entertaining reels of celluloid.

Interesting choices have been made in the eclectic musical score that often sounds like a high noon showdown in Dodge City between the sheriff and the outlaws. The most realistic aspect of the movie is in the accuracy of the languages spoken. Mainstream audiences should be aware that the majority of the dialogue is in French and German with English subtitles.

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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