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Glorious Basterds

Simply because the readers demand it, I’m offering up my review of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  For the record, I’m a sometimes Tarantino fan.  I respected both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but both crossed some lines that lessened my enjoyment of the movies (think: Stuck in the Middle with You).  On the other hand, I adore Kill Bill (both ‘volumes’), and left the theater in pure awe after seeing Vol. 1.  So I came to Inglourious Basterds hopeful, but guarded. I saw the movie with my wife who has seen Pulp Fiction and the Bills, liking both.

Despite my well harbored reservations, it took all of 5 minutes to be convinced that Basterds was a wonderful movie.  From the incredible first “chapter” with Christopher Waltz as the unforgettable “Jew Hunter” Hans Lander, the movie is fraught with tension and brilliance.  Before I go further, let it be known that just as much as the Best Supporting Actor Oscar was unquestionably going to Heath Ledger for The Joker last year, so Waltz already has two hands on the statue this year.  His performance alone is worth the price of the movie, and Hans Lander will be long remembered as one of the best screen villains of this decade (along with Ledger Joker and Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith).

The second chapter of the movie introduces Brad Pitt’s team of Basterds, US Jews assembled to beat the holy hell out of Nazis.  Pitt’s performance is slightly distracting at first, but makes more sense as the movie moves along.  He’s functioning as a modern day John Wayne, present more to be “the American screen star in a WW II movie” than as a pure ‘actor’.  Basterds, like most Tarantino films, is a running commentary on cinema itself.  Everything he does is calculated and referential.  Pitt is a bit ridiculous, but then again, he’s supposed to be.  You never forget you are watching Brad Pitt (unlike his turns in Snatch or 12 Monkeys or even Fight Club), it was distracting at first, but by the end of the movie, I was glad for it as his amazing Italian accent almost steals the show (just wait for it).

Unfortunately, there’s only so much I can say about the movie without ruining it.  It is significantly less bloody than Bill, and less objectionable than Fiction and Dogs, but remember that’s on a “Taraninto” scale.  It’s a Tarantino film, which means it’s wonderfully, viscerally violent.  To be frank, it was as emotionally satisfying to my deep seeded lust for bloody vengeance as any movie could be.  If you think it would be fun to watch Nazi’s get the crap kicked out of them, then this is the movie for you.  The sense of just retribution for the crimes of the Third Reich was immensely gratifying.  Tarantino knows what moves young men and plays each note perfectly.

The movie is violent and funny.  The ending is brilliant.  Tarantino loves to build scenes to a Hitchcockian level of tension, but with him you know the bomb under the table is going off, and when it does, someone is losing a leg.

This movie is not as life altering as Kill Bill, but in many ways was just as enjoyable if not more so. It is much more accessible than Bill, but sacrifices nothing in getting there.  My wife and I both loved the movie, and I would pay to see it again in a heartbeat.