Inglourious Basterds

October 24, 2010 - World War II serves as the backdrop for this film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino. Brad Pitt gets top billing, but Christoph Waltz won an Oscar for his supporting role as Col. Hans Landa, the "Jew Hunter." Mélanie Laurent and Diane Kruger have featured roles, and look for Mike Myers and B.J. Novak in smaller parts.

The opening sequence takes place in 1941 Nazi-occupied France. Landa and his men show up at a farmhouse where Landa believes a Jewish family is hiding. Only the family's eldest daughter, Shoshanna (Laurent), escapes. We later learn that she has fled to Paris, where she lives under a false name and operates a movie theater.

Occupied France is also where an elite unit of mainly Jewish-American soldiers carries out its mission to kill Nazis. Headed by Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt), these men, known as "The Basterds," kill and scalp just about every Nazi they encounter. A select few are branded with a swastika and left to tell their terrifying tale to Hitler himself.

Things come to a head in 1944. The Nazis choose Shoshanna's theater to premiere a new propaganda film. All the top Nazis, maybe even Hitler, will be there. The Basterds are assigned to take them out in what amounts to a suicide mission. But, Shoshanna has a mission of her own in mind. It all culminates in an explosive ending.

Overall review: **** Quentin Tarantino is at the top of his game as both writer and director. He builds anticipation by letting the characters express themselves verbally then pays off with bursts of violence that are horrifying without being gratuitous. To my mind, however, the best scene in the film occurs about three-quarters of the way through as Shoshanna prepares to carry out her revenge. Tarantino picks a song from the Eighties and fits it perfectly into this period piece. His mastery of music makes this particular moment the most memorable in a very memorable movie.