By Gil Whiteley, DENVER DAILY NEWS
9 stars out of 10
“Inglourious Basterds” is “The Dirty Dozen” meets Sergio Leone. This is a World War II fantasy film in which the names, dates, places and general facts of World War II history are not necessarily relevant in Tarantino’s world.
Nevertheless this is Quentin Tarantino’s finest film since “Pulp Fiction,” and maybe it should have been called “WWII Fiction.” It doesn’t matter, it is brilliant, and keeps you smokin’ for 153 minutes of continuous action.
This film is exceedingly violent, but the violence is so gratuitous it has a comic nature to it.
Brad Pitt is incredible as Lt. Aldo Raine, the leader of a group of Jewish American soldiers who are dropped behind enemy lines in German occupied France prior to the D-Day invasion. This small group is known as “The Basterds,” and their only job is to kill Nazis in the most disgusting way possible.
“Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps … and I want my scalps!” says Raine to his Basterds.
Pitt is perfectly over the top in this film. His role is the wink that keeps this film from being too gruesome to handle.
Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), know as “The Bear Jew,” has been terrorizing the Nazis, pummeling them to death with his baseball bat. He’s such a heinous Basterd that Hitler refuses to admit he’s real, and nothing but a mythical figure to destroy the morale of his troups. Except the Bear Jew is very real, and in one of the more tense scenes in the film he comes out of a cave and is introduced to us and a Nazi captive who won’t cooperate with Raine. Raine loves to explain to his victims what his Basterds do just before they do it to them.
“You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business — we in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin’.”
Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) is the sole survivor of the massacre of her family at the hands of Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, who is deliciously loathsome), the notorious “Jew Hunter.” She flees to the city trying to hide and lands at a small movie theater under an assumed name.
The German film movement is at the core of this story, along with one of the Reich’s heroes, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), the Nazi’s version of Sgt. York. Zoller is a patron of the cinema house she now owns and is infatuated with Shosanna. The Nazi hierarchy has produced a propaganda film about the exploits of the now famous Pvt. Zoller. Trying to impress Shosanna, he convinces the powers that be to have the premiere at her theater.
Diane Kruger is great as Bridget Von Hammersmark, a Marlene Dietrich type spy for the Americans, and works with the Basterds against the Nazis. All the energy of the film focuses on the theater, and the myriad of distinguished Nazi generals and dignitaries who will be attend the premiere — maybe even Hitler himself.
This is an excellent film of retribution and payback. Tarantino is careful to separate the German people from the Nazis, which makes the violence almost tolerable. I have to admit that I’m into revenge flicks, and this is the ultimate fantasy that somehow makes us feel good at the conclusion.
This is a violent film and is not for the faint of heart, but it is handled with a certain wit, and is outrageous enough to not be taken too seriously.
This is entertainment. Try to see the humor in this film, and you’ll have one your best film-going experiences in years.
This is my favorite film of 2009 by far.
Gil Whiteley writes sports columns and film reviews for the Denver Daily News. Listen to Whiteley everyday at noon on “Gil and Woody” on AM 1510 KCKK.
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