"Inglourious Basterds" Movie Review

in Film

"Inglourious Basterds" (my 0-10 rating: 9)
Genre: War-adventure-drama (in mostly subtitled German and French but some English)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Martin Wuttke, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Mike Myers, Cloris Leachman, Samuel L. Jackson.
Time: 2 hrs., 33 min.
Rating: R (strong graphic violence, vulgarity and brief sexuality)

This is Quentin Tarantino-plus, then plus again, and boiled over.

He's finally come of age, his "Inglourious Basterds" being a matured grasp of some of the most dramatic of modern devices, strategies and tactics of the cinematic arts. Its European feel in some parts, blessed with a full Hollywood budget and greatly sophisticated Tarantino technique and style expand rapidly and organically, indeed inexorably, into a treatment of spellbinding suspense at many levels. His choice of allowing each character to speak in his and her own language, thus preserving the special emphases and cultural feel, was superb.

This is World War II fairy tale stuff, of course. Nothing of the plot's events regarding the plot to kill the Nazi top figures ever happened.

This is also Tarantino going through his scalping period. The compulsive graphic, detailed depictions of men being scalped are quite startling, surely a great satisfaction for ardent Tarantino fans who love his worship of torture and gore killing.

The European flair mentioned above comes in a remarkably self-sustaining extended sequence in a Parisian cafe basement as Nazi officers, Nazi-posing Britishers and an extraordinarily performed female double-agent play cat-and-mouse games with each other in their ploys and counter-ploys. With little beyond words and inflections, largely subtitled French and German, the verbal encounters create a mega-charged, dry-mouthed suspense of the first magnitude.

Tarantino's triumph explodes on many fronts. His use of grandiose, operatic music themes, steeped in accentuation and irony, is brilliant. His directing of demanding nuances in the constant confrontations between devious personalities in which lethal repercussions will follow a mistaken interpretation between characters, is amazingly precise and flawlessly timed. The acting award goes to Christoph Waltz, a good-looking 43-year-old actor who speaks effortlessly in four languages. Applause also to Diane Kruger whose delivery, second-by-second, is a studied masterpiece. And Martin Wuttke's rendition of the then 55-year-old Adolf Hitler is the best I can recollect in film, down to his finest mannerisms.

For amusing cameo roles, check out Rod Taylor as Winston Churchill.

"Basterds" comes at you in five "chapters," the first being "Once upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France" (1940). Uglifying the screen is notorious Nazi "Jew Hunter" Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) who intrudes into a farmhouse looking for a hidden Jewish family. And then and there Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) watches helplessly as her family is massacred. Shosanna herself narrowly escapes, managing to find her way to Paris. Resourceful, by 1944 in that occupied city she has become the owner and operator of a movie theater.

In another part of Europe, lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish-American soldiers who need little convincing to assault Nazis with lightning, brutal revenge. They become known to the Germans as "the basterds." Raine's squad conspires with German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to terminate the leaders of the Third Reich. The main characters will all eventually be drawn together under Shoshanna's cinema marquis, where once again we meet her, now ready to carry her bizarre and spectacular revenge plot.

But Shosanna has, for the moment, had to bear up under the unwelcome advances of Nazi war hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), who calls himself "the German Sgt. York" for his feat in killing dozens of Allied soldiers singlehandedly. Also, shortly, she'll have to manage to be hospitable to the infamous propaganda minister Dr. Josef Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) as well as Col. Landa, who informs her that the Nazis will now take over her theater for purposes of showing the film in which Zoller stars. In attendance will be the Nazi elite including Hitler himself, his long-time confidante Martin Bormann and Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering.

At last, here's the chance she's been so long awaiting to strike back at the man who slaughtered her family, and now other Nazis as well. The gala premiere is to be held that very evening.

In the next chapter, "Operation Kino," a British commando leader (and former film critic), Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), is advised by a general (Mike Myers) of that same film premiere in the previous chapter. It'll be in three days.

So now, independent of the Shoshanna plot, these Brits, in cooperation with the Basterds, plot to infiltrate the premiere in a set-up by Bridget von Hammersmark, their secret agent. The potential for disaster in major. Key to the plot is Col. Landa, the heinous officer who had supervised the slaughter of Shoshanna's family. Now, four years later with the Nazi regime facing its doom on all combat fronts after D-Day and the crushing Soviet offense on a 600-mile front, Landa schemes, as did many German officers at that time, his own escape across the ocean.

The conspiracy plot is all Tarantino fiction, of course. In reality, Hitler and the Nazi top-four hierarchy of Goebbels, Goering and Heinrich Himmler (the latter not in the film) all committed suicide at the end of the war in the spring of 1945. Hitler took cynanide with his newly wed wife Eva Braunn, then shot himself before it took effect; Goebbels took cyanide with his wife and six beautiful children, Goering was slipped a cyanide pill by his wife while awaiting sentencing at the Nuremberg Trials and Himmler took the pill after being captured by the British, trying to escape dressed as a woman.

I'll call the film at just short of perfect 10 because of Tarantino's unjustifiable overuse of gory scalping scenes and a not entirely credible ending.

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Marty Meltz has 1 articles online

http://www.martymoviereviews.com Marty Meltz, 30-year former films critic for the Portland (Maine) Sunday Telegram. Offering right-to-the-point reviews that address directly the question of the film's entertainment value to you. Films have personalities. It doesn't matter who wrote it, who directs it, who stars in it, if it doesn't reach out to you with charisma. I examine its honesty and intelligence. Are you being respected, or are you being jerked around?

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"Inglourious Basterds" Movie Review

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This article was published on 2010/03/27