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Inglorious Basterds (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 2 hours 32 minutes.

OK for children, except for some graphic violence.

This is pretty much an old-fashioned World War II movie, updated by more graphic violence.

The films starts with a brilliantly tense 15-minute segment as SS Col. Hand Landa (Christoph Waltz, who gives the most memorable performance in the film) questions dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) in his little farmhouse in the French countryside.

There are some major actors in minor roles; Mike Myers, as General Ed Fenech, Rod Taylor as Winston Churchill, and Julie Dreyfus as Francesca Mondino. I admit I didn’t recognize Julie. Another cameo is by Enzo Castellari, who made the 1978 film “Inglorious Basterds,” from which the title of this film is borrowed.

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this has the feel of an old-fashioned WWII movie from the 1940s. The Yanks who are behind the lines killing Nazis apparently feel no concern or worry about their precarious situation. Everything seems just real good with these guys massacring every Nazi they can find. In real life, which Tarantino always likes to think he portrays, it wouldn’t be nearly so easy and they wouldn’t be nearly so devil-may-care.

Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) puts together a squad of Jewish GIs (including Sgt. Donny Donowitz, played by Eli Roth, who is better known as the writer, producer, and director of “Cabin Fever” and “Hostel,” two surprisingly successful horror films). Sgt. Donowitz uses a Louisville Slugger to dispatch his Nazi victims. They parachute behind the Nazi lines and kill every Nazi they can find. Not only kill them, but scalp them, too. Onscreen. Graphically. Well, what did you expect from director Quentin Tarantino, who knows how to produce gore when he wants? Actually, Quentin held himself in check pretty well. Although there are bodies all over the place, and some if it is pretty graphic, there are a few scenes that force you to avert your eyes, but nothing that really turns your stomach.

Eventually they are set up by their handlers in London for a big job, where they meet German movie star Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger, who grew up in Germany and lives in Paris). She is their contact behind the lines, but is she a double agent?

Although Lt. Raine’s story is entertaining it is relatively light-hearted and clearly unrealistic. A much better, more intense, and realistic part of the film involves Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) as a Jewess operating a theater in Paris, chillingly pursued by Nazi hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl). Her story eventually has her come together with Lt. Raine and his squad to a surprising ending.

This must be pretty good because I didn’t look at my watch and it’s a long film. But in the end it’s a fantasy, updated by Tarantino’s chimerical speculation.