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Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

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Quentin Tarantino returned to the silver screen after a two-year directing hiatus with his summer blockbuster Inglourious Basterds. Since 2007’s Death Proof (his half of the Grindhouse double-feature), Tarantino has been working on this project and the effort put forth is evident in the final product. Regardless of the views of Tarantino’s recent filmmaking decisions, his natural writing and directing ability culminate in an entertaining summer blockbuster. Is it Pulp Fiction? Of course not, no one asked for it to be, but Tarantino makes movies because it’s fun, and based on the final product, he had his fair share of fun making Inglourious Basterds.

At a running time of 153 minutes it might seem to drag, but this film had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Looking at past films Tarantino has done, this kind of running time is nothing new. The alternative history delivered with such detail merits the longer running time. The movie is broken down into five distinct chapters chronicling the story of Nazi-occupied France and the people involved in trying to bring down the Third Reich.

Brad Pitt plays the leading role of Lieutenant Aldo Raines, leader of the “basterd” army, and accompanying him in the supporting actor role is Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, the leader of the SS trying to round up Jews in France. Pitt turns in a surprising performance of comedic cunning and thoughtful prowess with the way he handles himself, but Waltz steals the show with an Oscar-winning performance (he ran away with it) of calm viciousness and authoritative control.

The best scene of the movie, and possibly one of the best overall scenes Tarantino has ever created, is the opening scene. It is undeniably powerful and so full of emotion as Hans Landa finally gets a French homeowner to admit to hiding Jews under his floorboards. What truly makes this scene so powerful is the calm intensity shown by both characters throughout the conversation. The emotions and tension escalate slowly and deliberately to the point where the audience is on the edge of its seat awaiting the fate of the French homeowner. With the audience hooked, Tarantino refuses to take his foot off the accelerator for the rest of the film.

So with his summer blockbuster Tarantino paints a gory, blood-dripping, alternative history story. The basterd crew terrorizes the Nazi party and in the finale makes an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler during a screening of a propaganda film. The great plot twist is when runaway Jew Shoshanna Dreyfus makes an assassination attempt on the Nazi hierarchy at the cinema she owns on the same night as the basterds’ plan. So these interweaving plans lead to mass chaos and destruction of the Nazi party in a rage of destruction only Tarantino can capture.

Overall, Inglourious Basterds delivers a high-energy film containing comedy and downright viciousness in a perfect blend. The quirky side notes, such as Samuel L. Jackson’s voice-overs and a David Bowie song, add to the over-the-top feel that makes the movie so likable. Fortunately, Tarantino keeps the movie grounded enough to deliver a marvelous product that does not lose focus of its original purpose, killing Nazis.

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