Thursday, August 20, 2009

'Inglorious Basterds' Kicks Ass! [Review]

Inglorious Basterds begins with "Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France..." an opening scene set in the French countryside, where we are introduced to the dreaded Nazi Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a heinous murderer and scheming genius who refers to himself as a the "Jew hunter.'' Landa can make sipping a glass of milk or indulging in an apple strudel with whipped cream seems like an ominous, treacherous ordeal.

Lt. Aldo Raines, is played by Brad Pitt with a nice scar and a Tennesseean good-ol'-boy accent. Raines has assembled a group of Jewish-American soldiers named after an obscure 1978 Italian exploitation picture, to infiltrate enemy lines and make Nazis suffer for their crimes. He orders his men to bring back 100 Nazi scalps each.

"We will be cruel to the Germans,'' Raine reasons, "and through our cruelty, they will know who we are.''

The Basterds create a mythology about themselves, roaming the French countryside and killing without mercy, only saving a few survivors to tell the tale of the Basterds. These survivors often have a swastika carved into their foreheads, so that after the war they will never forget what they've done.

Part of the beauty of Inglourious Basterds is the speed and suddenness with which Tarantino masterfully shift gears from laughter to horror.

There are even more plots going on in the movie including the cinema owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), whose family was slaughtered by the Germans in the opening scene, is now living incognito in Paris where she runs a movie theater. Her cinema is selected by Frederick Zoeller (Daniel Bruhl) to premiere a movie based on his war exploits. It is expected that many leaders of the Third Reich will be in attendance, including Mr. Adolf Hitler. The Basterds plan to hit the theater and end the war in one swift stroke

Diane Kruger plays the German actress Bridget von Hammersmark who is working as an undercover agent for the British, and Michael Fassbender's plays Archie Hickox, the British operative sent to join Raines and his crew. Tarantino does a long, suspenseful sequence inside a tavern in which the two are part of a rowdy drinking game which turns serious, and then gets real ugly when a German major makes a surprise entrance.

Til Schweiger plays the badass Hugo Stiglitz, the German former SS member of the Basterds. His character backstory is presented before you, in a style that is purely Tarantino, complete with self-conscious voiceover narration by Samuel L. Jackson.

Mike Myers makes a wonderfully quirky cameo appearance in the film as British General Ed French. Myers' cameo fulfilled a childhood dream. His mother was in the air force and his dad was in the British army. He always wanted to be the British general who explains the mission, and in this movie he gets to live the dream.

Tarantino gets strong performances from his actors that match the story he's taking his time telling. Christoph Waltz's standout performance in his wickedly seductive portrayal of monstrous evil is worthy of an Oscar nomination!

Harvey Weinstein (The Weinstein Co.) (left)
Christoph Walz (Nazi Col. Hans Landa)

Tarantino once again incorporates the "Chapter structure" of his previous films. Cinematographer Robert Richardson paints a gorgeous landscape which is punctuated with spectacular music choices, including David Bowie's audacious kick-ass 'Cat People (putting Out the Fire)', and titles from Ennio Morricone. The soundtrack is available from the iTunes music store.

I love Inglorious Basterds! This bizarre hybrid of WWII movies and spaghetti westerns had me on the edge of my seat right from the beginning until the outrageous, combustible finale inside a movie theater which gives WWII an alternative ending. War has never been so much fun. A must see!

Inglorious Basterds explodes onto big screens on August 21, 2009.

Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Michael Fassbender, Mike Myers.

Writer-director: Quentin Tarantino.

Producer: Lawrence Bender.

A Weinstein Co. release. Running time: 152 minutes. Vulgar language, considerable violence, heavy gore, sexual situations, adult themes. In English, German, French and Italian with English subtitles.

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