Brad Pitt is a Basterd
by DAVID WILLIAMS
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on August 28, 2009 | PRINT

Tarantino, you magnificent basterd! This is one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in a long time!

There are certainly many great directors working in today’s Hollywood, but Quentin Tarantino is one of the few whose immeasurable love of cinema shines in almost every frame of his films.

His latest masterstroke, “Inglourious Basterds” (the “Tarantino way of spelling it,” the director has explained), is an audacious, uninhibited, inarguably fun-as-hell homage to B war movies, tough guy actors, spaghetti Westerns, soundtracks and the director’s own manic genius. This is a must-see.

The narrative trails two separate plots to knock off Hitler and the rest of the Reich high command, but don’t go thinking that “Basterds” is simply a war film.

Tarantino, as with most of his works, blends so many genres into one cohesive whole that categorizing his work is like getting Brett Favre to pick a team and stick with it.

The film is centered around the “basterds” themselves (an overt nod to the Dirty Dozen), a group of ruthlessly efficient Jewish-American soldiers who are dropped deep behind enemy lines with the sole mission of terrorizing Nazis. And boy, do they ever! Here’s a film in which you’ll see throats slit, skulls bashed and faces disintegrate amidst a hail of bullets.

The titular squad is led by one of the film’s three main characters, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a good ole Southern boy known as “Aldo the Apache” thanks to his affinity for scalping the corpses of German soldiers. The other two are Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a French-Jewish theater owner hoping to avenge her family’s murder at the Nazis’ hands, and Lt. Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the arch-villain whose methods have earned him the nickname “Jew Hunter.”

While all are grand incarnations, it’s Waltz who steals the show as one of the most memorable evildoers in recent memory.

In addition to being privileged with the juiciest lines in the movie, the Austrian actor gives such an intensely visceral performance. With the slightest shift of his facial expression, he is able to go from lighthearted, mannered, perfect gentleman to utter psychopath. Here’s an actor who doesn’t let the exaggeration of his character stop him from being convincing and convincingly scary as hell. Let the Oscar race begin!

So, is this Tarantino’s best? Well, I think “Pulp Fiction” retains its crown, but it cannot be denied that “Inglourious Basterds” is an achievement for the 46-year-old patron saint of film geeks.

The wonderful dialogue, the iconic performances, the violence that we’ve come to expect but still marvel at, it’s all there. This movie’s just plain fun, a Louisville Slugger to the audience’s senses and a feverish fantasy of getting medieval on the Führer.

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