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Aug222009

Inglourious Basterds proves you can have your Nazis and kill 'em too (Review)

Quentin Tarantino may be lacking in some things, but its certainly not enthusiasm. Inglourious Basterds is a disgusting movie about killing & scalping Nazis; these types of movies don’t usually win anything but MTV awards for categories like “Best WTF Moment.” Yet, it is so funny, charming, and aggrandizing that I can’t help but love it.

Tarantino manages to pull a great performance from everyone in Basterds, but Brad Pitt and Cristoph Waltz steal every scene they’re in (perhaps that’s why they are in few of them together—divide and conquer). Pitt is Lt. Aldo Raine and has one helluva great Tennessee accent. He leads a group of Jewish-American guerilla fighters with one mission: to kill Nazis and collect their scalps. (Though, unless they lug a freezer behind them, I wouldnt’ want to be the one who has to store and carry dem scalps.) Pitt as Aldo manages to get a laugh from nearly every line he’s given; he’s so damn likeable. I didn’t laugh at him, but with him. Aldo is a guy that, aside from all that Nazi killin’, I’d want to drink a beer with. And hell, with a few drinks in me, I’d probably end up scalping a Nazi or two myself.

With a character as great as Aldo leading the good guys, the Nazis turn to Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) for representation. Col. Landa is a loyal? member of the Third Reich. In the streets, they call him “The Jew Hunter” because, well, that’s his job, to sniff out and kill Jews. In the film’s opening scene, Col. Landa interrogates a French dairy farmer (Denis Minochet). He believes the farmer is hiding Jews under his floorboards, an assertion that proves correct. We’ve seen evil Nazi’s before, but none as interesting as Col. Landa. He manipulates the farmer so well, it is hard to believe any Jews would survive a Holocaust with Landa leading the extermination team. Throughout the entire story, he seems one step ahead of everyone, finding clues from the smallest mistakes and playing mental games with his prey. Waltz’ performance is worthy of award.

As much as I love it, this is not a flawless masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino shows an incredible precision when constructing shots and scenes. Characters often perform their big moves in slow motion, to the beat of very cool music (you know, Kill Bill stuff), and it never ceases to feel awesome. Every second is pained over and every piece of dialogue intriguing. Tarantino loves every moment of his film. However, he sometimes loses sight of the big picture. While he sets the film up to be about the guys collecting “100 Nazi scalps,” we actually only see the Basterds doing their job once or twice. Tarantino shifts focus to a an escaped Jewish Cinema owner, operating in Germany (Mélanie Laurent) and her encounters with the Third Reich, and Col. Landa. The British even have some time in the spotlight, with Mike Myers providing a serious, yet laughable, performance as British Gen. Ed Fenech.

Tarantino doesn’t want his movie to end. He meanders through countless odd and long scenes, many unneeded, savoring each moment, and puts off the big events that might conclude his film. At 2 1/2 hours, you would think this would be bothersome. Not really. Despite its premise (killing Nazis), as set up by all advertisements and trailers, Inglourious Basterds is not an action flick. But when Tarantino does get around to the action, it’s gory, disturbing, and thoroughly worth the wait. Few directors get to eat their cake too, but Quentin succeeds by going overboard in almost every respect. He even changes the entire end of World War II. Let me tell you, it’s a much more satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t hurt that the film is funded by The Weinstein Company. I imagine they’re big fans of the premise.

Every second of Inglourious Basterds is constructed with an almost fetish-like relish, and it pays off. This disgusting movie about killing & scalping Nazis is not the deepest narrative, but this isn’t a book. It is, however, one of the best cinema experiences you’ll have this year.

Score: 4.5 out of 5 (A movie fans of cinema can’t help but love; see it on the big screen)

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