Tuesday, February 09, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Inglourious Basterds

Number of Nominations: 8 (Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Achievement in Sound Editing, Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay)
Availability in the US: DVD, Blu-Ray

If she were still alive, my Grandma Zelda would say, “That Quentin Tarantino seems like such a mensch on TV, what’s with all the violent movies? Why can’t he make a nice romantic comedy one of these days?” Well, today is not that day. Inglourious Basterds is full of the typical blood and gore we have come to expect in Tarantino’s films, but it also has two other elements that are typical to his flicks: a stellar cast and an engaging script.

In the past few years we’ve seen several films about plots to kill Hitler and end WWII, but this one may actually surprise you. Inglourious Basterds is a fictional account of a group of American-born Jewish soldiers in Nazi-occupied France who spread fear throughout the Third Reich by killing and scalping Nazis. That’s about as much as I can say without giving away too much and ruining your enjoyment of the film.

Brad Pitt turns in a good performance as Aldo Raine, leader of The Basterds. Raine provides a lot of comic relief throughout the film, as an over-the-top, not quite adept, somewhat overenthusiastic Nazi-killer. Although Pitt is the lead, however, the standout performance comes from first-time Oscar nominee Christoph Waltz as “The Jew Hunter” Colonel Hans Landa. Waltz sets up Landa from his very first scene as a force to be reckoned with. Every time he appears on-screen thereafter, the audience holds its collective breath, not knowing what will happen next. His character’s final twist is both shocking and satisfying.

Everything about this film is engaging and entertaining. My only criticism, as I alluded to earlier, is an expected one in a Tarantino film: the film is a bit too gory. One expects a WWII film to have some blood and guts, but the repeated shots of The Basterds cutting the scalps off their Nazi victims were unnecessarily graphic, and the film’s final shot made even me a little queasy. Most of the shooting and war-related violence is actually fairly tame compared to most WWII films.

All this is forgivable for the exciting and entertaining film that results. Inglourious Basterds has everything you could want in a popcorn flick: spaghetti-western-style violence, interesting characters, an excellent script, and wonderful direction and photography. I highly recommend seeing this film.

Grade: A-

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