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Vol. LXIII, No. 34
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

MEN, YOU HAVE BEEN PICKED FOR A SPECIAL MISSION: Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is explaining what the squad of Jewish GIs will be doing in their mission behind the German lines. The men have been chosen because they are fluent in the languages that they will encounter in their search for Nazis.

Inglourious Basterds: Tarantino’s WWII Story Sends GIs on Sadistic Quest for Revenge

Kam Williams

It took over ten years for Quentin Tarantino to finish writing the script for Inglourious Basterds, and his fans will undoubtedly find the film well worth the wait. This gruesome World War II story stars Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a half-breed hillbilly from Tennessee who assembles an all-Jewish unit of American GIs to engage in a Nazi-hunting party in occupied France.

The storyline resembles the war films from the sixties that revolved around a ragtag team of irregulars undertaking a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in movies such as The Dirty Dozen (1967), Where Eagles Dare (1968), The Train (1964), Von Ryan’s Express (1965), The Devil’s Brigade (1968), and The Guns of Navarone (1961). The difference in this case is that Tarantino has, in his trademark fashion, upped the amount of gore and devotes considerable time to character development in a tale of revenge that’s partly historical but mostly the product of his imagination.

The film opens in 1941 in a rural region of France where we find a notorious Nazi colonel known as “The Jew Hunter” (Christoph Waltz) interrogating a dairy farmer (Denis Menochet) who is suspected of hiding Jews. To save his life, the frightened Frenchman points out the spot under the floorboards of his home where the terrified Dreyfus family lies huddled together. Soon soldiers with machine guns appear and the only survivor of the ensuing carnage is a daughter, Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), who miraculously escapes into the countryside.

By 1944, Shoshanna has resurfaced as Madame Mimieux and is the manager of a modest movie theater that she operates with the help of her boyfriend, Marcel (Jacky Ido), who is the projectionist. When Shoshanna learns that Hitler himself (Martin Wuttke) will be attending the premiere of a new Nazi propaganda film that she’s hosting, she decides to avenge the murder of her relatives. She and Marcel hatch a plan to kill the Führer, Goebbels (Sylvester Groth), and hundreds of other Nazis by setting the movie house on fire during the screening.

While this is going on, Aldo and his recruits are on a sadistic reign of terror in which they kill German soldiers in a variety of ways, including bashing in brains with a baseball bat, slicing off scalps, and carving swastikas into foreheads. The parallel plots finally merge when the gang gets word of Hitler’s appearance at the theater from a spy (Diane Kruger), and they too devise a plan to assassinate him.

Don’t be put off by all the gore, for it is ultimately vindicated by Inglourious Basterds’ delivery of a thought provoking message not only about war and man’s inhumanity to man, but about our insatiable lust for movies about war. Let the debate begin as to whether Tarantino is either sanctioning or condemning the exploits of Aldo and company by juxtaposing them against the reprehensible behavior of the evil Jew Hunter.

Quentin again proves himself a master yarn spinner who keeps his audience entertained and on edge during the film by milking the maximum amount of tension out of each of the tautly edited five acts.

Quentin Tarantino’s best yet, a tour de force not to be missed.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated R for profanity, graphic violence, and brief sexuality. Running time: 153 minutes. Studio: The Weinstein Company.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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