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Tarantino's 'Basterds' is bloody, glorious

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Published: Sat, August 22, 2009 @ 2:58 p.m.

Inglourious Basterds

"Inglourious Basterds" begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa. Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema. Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to their enemy as "The Basterds," Raine's squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own.

Showtimes and more on Inglourious Basterds

With movies such as the "Kill Bill" series, "Reservoir Dogs" and of course, "Pulp Fiction," writer/director/producer/actor Quentin Tarantino is known for his peculiar vision.

This holds true for his recent release, "Inglourious Basterds." Unlike many World War II films that attempt to accurately represent the struggles and bloodshed, Tarantino twists the the story to star a Jewish-American militia who's goal is to overthrow Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Lead by Tennessee-born hillbilly Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), each militia member has only one goal: to kill 100 Nazis (pronounced naht-zis). And they do kill a lot of Nazi soldiers. And when they're finished, viewers get to watch the militia scalp each and every one of them. It was admittedly tough to watch the first couple of scalpings, but after a while it seemed normal (if a scalping could ever be "normal.")

The movie opens in occupied France, where then-teenager Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the brutal murdering of her family and narrowly escapes from Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Several years later, she finds herself the owner of a cinema in Paris. She is approached by German war hero-turned-movie star, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), who, somewhere between talking about himself and his movie, becomes smitten with Dreyfus. So smitten, in fact, that he decides to move his movie premiere to her theater. Still infuriated and disgusted by what happened to her family, Dreyfus nervously agrees and decides to use this opportunity as a way to take down the enemy.

Meanwhile, the Basterds are still scalping Nazis. More disgusting and sick than the scalping, though, is what they do to the ones they let live. Completely convinced that Nazi's should be forever marked as such, Raine takes it upon himself to carve a swastika into the forehead of every Nazi soldier he lets live. Pitt's portrayal of Raine is insanely entertaining, and reminiscent of a man who lives in a trailer and shoots animals from his back porch while drinking a six-pack of Budweiser and smoking USA Gold cigarettes.

Eventually, the Basterds cross paths with Dreyfus during their unrelated yet like minded attempts to take down the Nazis. The rest, as they say, is history.


Though I usually make it a point to not give away the end of a movie, the climax scene in the theater is certainly worthy of mention. After sneaking in to the film premier, Raine and his crew are outed by a Nazi soldier and are captured, leaving two militia members behind. Dreyfus and an employee, Marcel (Jacky Ido), plan to set fire to the theater, and things go as scheduled until Zoller sneaks into the projectionist booth and gets in the way of her plans. In a very "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" style, Dreyfus tries to kill Zoller by shooting him in the back. When she checks to see if he is dead, he uses his last bit of strength to shoot her in the stomach, which ends her life and almost sabotages her plan. During this, Marcel is stationed behind the screen, ready to ignite highly flammable nitrate film, which would destroy the theater.

This is carried out, with the help of the remaining Basterds, and all leaders of the Third Reich — Hitler included — die during the climax scene. Tarantino carries this scene out flawlessly, with almost as much grace and glory as when the Corleone family takes out the heads of the other five families in the original "Godfather." The final scene shows Landa surrendering to the Basterds. By order of the United States government, he is to be set free. Raine, uneasily, allows that to happen, but not without the permanent Nazi tag on his forehead.

A last noteworthy mention is that this film is filled with subtitles, most of which are easy to follow. Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke) is so funny and exuberant, it is more entertaining to watch him than to read what he is saying.

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