Violently Entertaining, Cinematically Dazzling: Inglourious Basterds!

Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino’s meta-war film that opens this Friday, is a glorious, violently entertaining, pop fable that may be one of the best films of this year. Considering the source -- Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 pulp action movie rip-off of The Dirty Dozen -- Tarantino’s film is neither a send up of Italian exploitation nor a fan boy potpourri, but almost a hallucinatory comic book of what war movies could be. Beginning with “Once Upon A Time In Nazi-Occupied France” and set in five chapters, the film alternates between several storylines. One is about a scalp-hungry commando team of Nazi killers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his dedicated crew (including a exuberantly witty turn by Hostel director Eli Roth). The other is about Shosanna (Melanie Laurent) who escaped death as a young girl at the hands of notorious “Jew Hunter” Col. Hans Landa (the astonishing Christoph Waltz) to reinvent herself as the owner of a movie palace who plots to trap and kill Nazi big wigs planning a premiere at her theater. The film features brilliant turns by Michael Fassbender as a David Niven-like British spy, former film critic, Til Schweiger, as a feared German cut-throat, and Diane Kruger as a Mata Hari-like movie star. The fiery action-packed pay-off at the end is wildly outrageous, cinematically dazzling and ludicrously satisfying.

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