INGLORIOUS BASTERDS is Terrific!

So last week in my review of DISTRICT 9, I went so far as to say it might be the best movie of the year. Of course, things change. But I didn’t expect them to change so fast! It’s already been uncrowned a week later by Tarantino’s new one, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

At almost three hours long, some people might find going to see this movie a little daunting. And I’m sure there are people who will hate it. My reaction, though, was that I wanted more time with these characters. I couldn’t get enough. There are so many well-drawn and fascinating characters here. A lot of the best ones don’t even get half the screen time they deserve.

The story? That’s simple. Brad Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine (a beyond-obvious homage to Aldo Rey, a great character actor who was in tons of war movies). Raine is the hillbilly-talking head of a special group of soldiers in WWII. Called “the Inglorious Basterds” (who knows why), he’s hand-picked a team of Jews (mostly American) who hate Nazis and want to kill them. This includes such characters as  Sgt. Donny Donowitz (director Eli Roth) who beats Nazis to death with a baseball bat and earned the nickname “the Jewish Bear.” There’s also Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) a former Nazi who was jailed for murdering his own men. When Raine gets wind of this, he just knows Stiglitz is perfect for the Basterds. As Aldo Raine says when he first gathers his team, he doesn’t just want them to kill Nazis, he wants them to fill the Germans with terror. Part of that terror comes from the demand that they scalp all Nazi corpses.

There are other plotlines, including the “antics” of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), also known as “the Jew hunter.” Landa is a master detective, and a Nazi, who is legendary for being able to track down and kill Jews. He’s the villain of the piece, and his mixture of charm and brutality makes him one of the most fascinating characters in the movie. Waltz received the Best Actor award at Cannes when the film premiered, and rightly so. He steals every scene he’s in. And he’s the perfect adversary for the Basterds, because he is just as ruthless as they are.

There’s also Shosanna Dreyfus (French actress Melanie Laurent), one of the few people who ever escaped from Landa. She now runs a cinema in Nazi-occupied Paris and unfortunately becomes the object of desire for Nazi war hero Frederick Stoller (Daniel Bruhl), who seeks to impress her by convincing Joseph Goebbles (Sylvester Groth) to premeire the film of Stoller’s life at Shosanna’s theater. This at first terrifies her (partly because it also bring Landa to town – the man who killed her family), but then it becomes part of a plan to kill all of the top Nazis at one time, as even the Fuhrer himself (played by Martin Wuttke) is rumored to be coming to the premeire.

The film is shown in five chapters – and seems almost like five separate short films about these characters. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about that, but as it went on, it really worked for me.

Now first off, disregard any of the real history you know. This movie has absolutely no interest in reality. Tarantino is not striving for authenticity here. Secondly, this movie is classic Tarantino, which means there is a lot of dialogue (that is how he develops his characters) and lots of bloody violence. If these aren’t your bag, then you should skip this one. The movie begins with a long, very suspenseful scene where Landa interrogates a French farmer about a Jewish family he may or may not be hiding. It unfolds at its own pace, and may just separate the patient moviegoers from the ADD audience members right off the bat.

But if you love great dialogue, really entertaining acting, and you don’t mind a little gore, then this movie is going to blow you away.

And now for the acting. I already mentioned how great Christoph Waltz is. There’s already buzz that he deserves an Oscar nomination, and I’m in total agreement. Brad Pitt is pretty damn great in this one, too. His character is played a lot for laughs (I know I laughed a lot), and he’s enjoyable as hell here. The women (Melanie Laurent as Shosanna and Diane Krueger as German movie star and double-agent Bridget von Hammersmark) are strong, and terrific. And there are even some entertaining cameos by people like Mike Myers (as a British officer) and Rod Taylor (as Churchill). But there are some characters who really deserved more screen time, the most obvious one that comes to my mind is Til Schwieger as Nazi-hater Hugo Stiglitz. With a perpetual sneer and a deep-seated hatred, Hugo is a brilliant character who also had me laughing a lot. Almost every time they show him, they show flashbacks to scenes where he is either being tortured by the Nazis, or more-likely, killing them. That’s all this guy thinks about! And the way Tarantino presents him is really funny at times. I really wish he’d been in the movie a lot more.

Then there’s Eli Roth. Most of you know I’m a big fan of his Hostel movies, and I liked him in Tarantino’s half of GRINDHOUSE (the movie Deathproof). Here, Roth is pretty funny, but I have to admit, even I was scratching my head over his accent. I couldn’t tell if it was a Boston accent or a Brooklyn one. But aside from that, he has some pretty funny scenes, especially toward the end, that justified his being part of the cast.

There were a few times I looked at my watch, but not many. And even though this movie is long, it left me wanting more. The sign of a great movie.

The other reviews I’ve read of this movie have been pretty lackluster. A lot of critics are saying it is his weakest movie and giving it around two stars. These people are total idiots. I have not been disappointed in a Tarantino flick yet, and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS keeps up Taraninto’s winning streak. It’s an amazing movie, and if you really invest the time in it, you will be rewarded. It’s not his weakest film by any stretch. It’s one of his best.

Right now, it’s my favorite film of the year. And I might go see it again.

Hell, at the ending of the showing I went to, the audience cheered when it was over. How often does that happen? I was pretty happy I got to see it with such an appreciative crowd in the middle of major college town.

Now stop reading and go see it already!

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