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Movie Review: Inglorious Basterds

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Inglourious Basterds

Image by sdfbss via Flickr

Spoilers abound ahead - hard to write a critical review without disclosing the action and the ending...

"Inglorious Basterds" is a story of a guerrilla operation, run by Brad Pitt and a motley collection of Jewish fighters in World War 2. They wreak havoc upon the Nazis, showing no mercy, and, in a typically Tarantino fashion, graphically in some cases, including the brutal baseball bat beating (too many b's?) of a Nazi officer who refuses to divulge the location of another patrol. It also follows the story of a Jewish girl who escaped a brutal murdering of her family at a French farm house. She escapes to Paris and runs a movie theater(!). There she accidentally befriends a Nazi officer who is sort of a German Audie Murphy, who supposedly single-handedly cuts down over 100 Allied soldiers from a church steeple. He then stars in a movie based upon his exploits and the Nazi high command wants to debut the movie in her movie theater. All the German high brass, from Hitler on down, attend, drawing the attention of the Allied high command, who promptly begin plotting an attack on the theater. Can they pull it off and end World War 2 in one blow?

Cover of "The Shot"

Cover of The Shot

As you can see from the synopsis, it has a big problem it shares with other historical retellings, like "Day Of The Jackal" (about an assassination attempt on DeGaulle) and Philip Kerr's "The Shot" (a reimagining of the Kennedy assassination) - you know what really happened, so you know the ending. Well, this was true in the case of Jackal. In "The Shot", Kerr does manage to escape the historical ending straight jacket, but only just barely. In the case of "Basterds", Tarantino shows amazing chutzpah and just totally ignores real history and proclaims a successful attack that kills them all! How totally bizarre and unexplainable.

Another problem with "Basterds" is that really, not much happens, at least for the first 90 minutes or more of a 250 minute film. There is no real story building, just a few episodes that paint in the background of the two major stores, but in such broad strokes to make it kind of boring and uninteresting, despite the graphic violence.

English: SS Colonel Hans Landa in the movie In...

Image via Wikipedia

But Christoph Waltz is absolutely mesmerizing as Col. Hans Landa, the Nazi agent in charge of ferreting out Jews, and then the Basterds. The opening scene, where he interviews a French farmer who is harboring his Jewish neighbors is nearly unbearable in its suspense and its graphic, explosive finale. And he continues to amaze in the rest of the movie.

Brad Pitt is just fine as the scene chewing leader of the Basterds. Mélanie Laurent was enchanting as the bitter Jewish survivor who plots the destruction of the German high command. Her ending was just so over the top Tarantino-esque as to be amazing.

But all in all, a 2.5 or maybe 3 out of 5 star movie. I just wasn't invested in the characters or the story, and I still don't understand the ending.


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