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Friday, 1 January 2010

Review: Inglourious Basterds, dir Quentin Tarantino (2009)

Imagine one day Tarantino decides to dig into his stored lore of war films with both hands, and dredge up a mass of imagery. How would the idiosynchratic filmmaker treat the subject matter? With wild abandon, it turns out.

A crew of Jewish American soldier infiltrates behind enemy lines, killing German soldiers. Brad Pitt plays their leader - Lieutenant Aldo Raine - with considerable flair. It's a role that offers plenty of scope for comedy, and Pitt takes advantage of this.

On the other side is the German intelligence officer, Colonel Hans Landa, played by Austrian actor Christoph Waltz. Landa hunts Jews so they can be transported to Poland for extermination. In Nazi-occupied France he makes himself busy.

As usual in a Tarantino film, there's plenty of good dialogue. One scene that adds little to the plot takes place in a cellar bar. A group of Allied soldiers working under cover, and a German actress working with them, is bailed up by a nosy SS officer. The word-play is rich, but this side story does not add much to the plot. The pleasure is in the interplay of received tropes and Tarantino's invention.

The main focus of the plot is a Jewish girl named Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) who now goes by the name Emmanuelle Mimieux. She runs a cinema and attracts the attention of a celebrated German sniper, Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl). With his input, the premiere of a film detailing Zoller's deeds is scheduled to play at Shoshanna's cinema.

She hatches a plot, seeing that a large number of high-ranking German officers will attend.

The film exploits decades of WWII films to create an imaginative pastiche with its own values and a strong momentum that carries the viewer happily toward the ironic denouement. Highly recommended.

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