'Inglourious Basterds' gloriously fun

Article Published: Sep. 24, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Inglourious Basterds' gloriously fun

"Tell Brad you like his knife. Tell him!" Eli Roth and Brad Pitt are Inglourious Basterds.

Inglourious Basterds is a bloody good time.

Director Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) has gleefully crafted another love letter to cinema, weaving together his favorite genres with ferocious finesse and gruesome grace.

This time, it's set in World War II, but is, by no means, a reverent war movie. Far from it. It's a revenge film, a lion in wolf's clothing, sly and majestically fierce. And it's a funny film, but not in the Kelly's Heroes sense. Inglourious Basterds is delightfully dark, written by a man who brushes history to the side for the sake of his narrative, a character piece that relies as heavily on dialogue as it does on action.

Its working title was "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France," which Tarantino at least reserved for the film's first episodic chapter, one of many Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) references carefully scattered throughout, which perfectly sets the tone for the next 150 minutes. Inglourious Basterds is basically a spaghetti western set in World War II.

As with his other films, Basterds is told in chapters. Somewhat misleading trailers present the film as a Tarantino-esque Dirty Dozen, but its titular characters are only one, albeit fun, component.

The film follows the stories of several characters, one of whom is the despicably silver-tongued Nazi Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), notoriously nicknamed "the Jew Hunter," whose disarming politeness and eloquence are used to menacing effect.

Loathsome as Landa may be, Waltz is a delight to watch, gracefully dominating his scenes and nearly stealing the show with a flawless performance.

Landa's cruelty is wrought upon Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), who, after witnessing the colonel murder her family, escapes the French countryside to Paris, where, under a new identity, she runs a French cinema, which inadvertently garners the attention of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth).

Goebbels wishes to premiere his latest film there, and he's invited the highest-ranking Nazi officials to attend, including Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke). Shosanna sees this as the perfect opportunity for revenge.

When Allied Command learns of the premiere, they contact the Basterds, a platoon of Jewish-American soldiers (and a defecting German) tasked with striking terror into the Nazi heart behind enemy lines. Under the command of Tennessee moonshiner turned Army officer Lt. Aldo "the Apache" Raine (Brad Pitt), the Basterds gain notoriety in France for their grisly attacks on Nazis, whose corpses are found bludgeoned, dismembered and scalped.

So effective are their methods that even Hitler has heard tell of the towering "Bear Jew," who mercilessly clubs his victims to death. It's actually Sgt. Donnie Donowitz (Eli Roth) with a baseball bat.

Unaware of Shosanna's plan, the Basterds are ordered to infiltrate the premiere and annihilate all in attendance, cracking all the rotten eggs in one basket and bringing a swift end to the war. Eventually, all characters converge, resulting in a thrilling climax that amuses, surprises and satisfies.

However, it's everything in between that makes Inglourious Basterds such a fun film. Watching a classic western unfold in a World War II setting is as compelling as its archetypal, but entirely unique, characters - Pitt as the likeable anti-hero, Waltz as the unshakable villain, and Laurent as the revenge-seeking everyman (or woman) forced into heroism.

The dialogue driven scenes, many of which are subtitled from French and German, are a joy to watch (particularly one set in a French tavern), and Tarantino's attention to detail, though admittedly bizarre at times, is nothing short of brilliant.

The devil's in the details, and Inglourious Basterds is one hell of a movie.
Inglourious Basterds, rated R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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