Inglourious Basterds ***1/2 (out of ****)

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Jacky Ido, B.J. Novak, Omar Doom, August Diehl, Denis Menochet, Sylvester Groth, Martin Wuttke, Mike Myers, Julie Dreyfus, Richard Samuel, Alexander Fehling, Rod Taylor
Rating: R (strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality)
Running Time: 153 min
Release Date: 8/21/09

In a nutshell Inglorious Basterds can be summed up as Tarantino does World War II. The title (misspelling is intentional) referees to a unit of seven Jewish soldiers who are recruited by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) to be dropped into occupied France to “kill Nazis.” He also wants to collect their scalps and expects 100 scalps from each. The unit harkens back to the classic Dirty Dozen except there was no scalping in the former film.

Another theme is developed at the beginning of the is the story of Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), a French Jewish farm girl. Her family is being hidden under the floorboards a farm house when SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) pays a visit. If you know little of history or perhaps need a refresher course Landa is a study in why the Nazis are so reviled after the passage of so many years. In spite of the farmers effort, Landa deduces where the family is hiding and orders his men to spray the floorboards with there MP40 submachine guns. Only Shosanna escapes from the Nazi massacre and as seen running away as Col. Landa levels his P38 on her but she is out of range.

So while the Basterds are killing and scalping a lot of German soldiers, Shosanna somehow finds refuge in Paris and inherits a movie theatre. She meets Private Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), a German soldier who seems more interested in films making than fighting. Quite naturally she isn’t smitten and wants as little involvement as possible. But, as it later turns out that he is a Nazi war hero who is credited with killing 300 American soldiers in Italy. Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) has made a film glorifying his exploits and Zoller persuades him hold the world premier in Shosanna’s theatre.

This provides an unexpected opportunity for Shosanna and the Allied High Command when they independently learn the nearly all of the key Nazi leaders including Hitler will be in attendance. Both hatch their plots that if successful will make D-Day and another year of bloody war unnecessary. Winston Churchill (Rod Taylor) has Lt. Hicox (Michael Fassbender), an expert on German movies, dropped behind enemy lines to give the Basterds their mission to attack the gathering. The plot involves a German movie star/British Agent (Diane Kruger) and some very bad attempts by Lt. Raine to pretend to be an Italian.

One sidelight are the snippets of the Zoller movie that it has the look of what a Quentin Tarantino Nazi propaganda film might have been. Christoph Waltz steals the show again with Colonel Landa’s plan to negotiate a deal that will spare him from a war crimes trial and probable execution. Let’s just say he doesn’t get away with it unmarked.

Inglorious Basterds has nothing to do with the real history of World War II. More broadly Tarantino films aren’t about reality. They are about other films and the style of these films. It’s only from this perspective can I recommend Basterds. This is a comedy but it isn’t making fun of the horrors of war but rather at movies about war. If you want a reality-based film about Jews resisting Nazi’s, check out Defiance on video. But, if you are open to what Tarantino does then you like this one too.

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