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Review: Inglourious Basterds

Posted by Watson on August 25, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Quentin Tarantino has brought before one steaming slice of... something here. Inglourious Basterds (Or Bastardi Senza Gloria, because in Italy, they spelled it right, and because everything is more awesome in Italian) is sort of an espionage suspense thriller historical-fiction comedy set in an alternate past's Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Brad Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine, the delightfully Southern and decidedly gentile commander of a Jewish commando unit formed to do one thing, and one thing only - kill Nazis. And also a plot to assassinate Hitler. And oh, the fun we have with all that. But these sequences have less to do with the action and violence (which leans towards the graphically comical), and more to do with Raine's quippy dialogue, which fans too young to know Full Metal Jacket will be quoting to their own military brats for many years to come.

There are at least two other story lines running through this piece. The film opens with SS Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) inspecting the home of a French dairy farmer suspected of harboring Jews. This character is superbly executed, from his slimy charm and charisma, to gravitas, to his really awkward excitement. Then we discover that Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) is the only person to survive Landa's inspection, and now runs a movie theater in Paris under a French name and papers. After she meets a particular German war hero turned actor, Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), all of these story lines start to weave together towards her theater.

Much of the movie plays with the audience through a certain amount of camp and melodrama, while also dealing with some serious issues about humanity, war, and violence. We watch Hitler laugh grotesquely at the film of Zoller mowing down Americans with a sniper rifle, while we ourselves are being gleefully entertained by the Basterds' "interaction" with Nazis. I like that this movie makes its audience think and work for that payoff. The movie also features Hitler himself quite extensively, which is rare partly because few actors are willing to play the role, and few writers are willing to write it, especially as well as it is carried out here. The movie is a comedy, but doesn't just use Hitler as a prop or the butt of jokes, nor does it, as the tendency goes, portray him as a pure force of inhuman evil. In a movie full of charicature and comic book violence, it was interesting to see some of the Hitler scenes among the few real character-developing moments.

The acting and writing are fantastic all around. Raine has the most of Tarantino's familiar dialogue style, and he and Landa are definitely the most fun to watch. This movie focuses on creating an atmosphere, and letting these characters walk around in it, and for me, just watching these characters be in their own shoes was as fun and compelling as any of the actual action.

If it's any indication, I haven't typically been a Tarantino fan, but I went back for a second helping of this one. But personally I think the best part of this movie is who isn't in it:

4 snarky sunglasses faces out of 5 (:cool::cool::cool::cool:/5).

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Reply J_Wade
10:58 PM on August 25, 2009 
Eh, it was no District 9.
Reply Watson
5:50 PM on August 26, 2009 
It was no Paul Blart either.