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Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds
The Weinstein Company
Rated R
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas

It’s been an interesting week for movie watching. Today will be a review of the best film I’ve seen so far this year. Tomorrow, I’ll look at one of the worst.

Love him or hate him, Quentin Tarantino has become iconic in the realm of cinema artistry. He sees things much differently from most people. His frame of reference is all the B-movies and foreign action and horror film that he grew to love as a video store clerk. While opinions vary as to the quality of his catalog, most will agree that in Tarantinoland, his masterpiece has been Pulp Fiction…until now.

Taking it’s title from a 1978 Italian war film, Inglourious Basterds has been reworked into a tale of a “Dirty Dozen” style outfit comprised of Jewish-American soldiers whose mission is simple: kill Nazis. Their leader is Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a former bootlegger from Maynardville, Tennessee, played with a twinkle in his eye and a twang in his speech by Brad Pitt. Pitt has always managed to be a movie star, but with his role in the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, he showed signs of being a really good actor. Tarantino has coaxed the performance of his career out of Pitt. Almost everything he says is funny…yet deadly serious.

Christoph Waltz plays the uber-nasty Nazi Colonel Hans Landa with a mix of romantic charm and frightening cruelty. It is one of the most amazing performances seen in ages, and was good enough to win him the Best Actor award at this years Cannes Film Festival.

With the exception of Diane Krueger, most of the other players will be unfamiliar, but many will stay with you long after the film is over. Especially good is Eli Roth, director of the Hostel series of horror films, as one of the most notorious of the Basterds.

In addition to being a war film fantasy, Inglourious Basterds is also a contemporizing of the Spaghetti Western genre. There are long vistas, tight close-ups, and brilliantly staged action scenes. Instead of using snatches of pop tunes for his score, Tarantino has opted to use music cues from other films that perfectly accompany the action on screen. From Dimitri Tiomkin’s “The Green Leaves of Summer” from The Alamo, to many selections by Ennio Morricone, and even Billy Preston and David Bowie. The use of Bowie singing Giorgio Moroder’s song “Cat People” from the 1982 remake as a lead-in to the magnificent set piece that provides the climax is inspired, and adds immensely to the proceedings.

It’s funny, frightening, thrilling, and even at two-and-a-half hours, incredibly fast paced. There are also a couple of Tarentino’s famous “punch-you-in-the gut” surprises. No matter if you think you have it all figured out… you won’t.

And without giving anything away, the last line in the film is “This may be my masterpiece.” No doubt, Tarantino particularly relished in that line, because future works notwithstanding, it may very well be. As Walter Brennan used to say: “No brag… just fact.”


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