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Inglourious Basterds (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
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Brad Pitt takes no prisoners in Quentin Tarantino’s high-octane WWII revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds. As war rages in Europe, a Nazi-scalping squad of American soldiers, known to their enemy as “The Basterds,” is on a daring mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich. Bursting with “action, hair-trigger suspense and a machine-gun spray of killer dialogue” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone), Inglourious Basterds is “another Tarantino masterpiece” (Jake Hamilton, CBS-TV)!
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Brad Pitt was outstanding as Lieutenant Aldo "The Apache" Raine, but in my opinion, Austrian-born actor Christoph Waltz, playing SS Colonel Hans Landa, gave one of the finest performances that I've ever seen in a film. Waltz received a ton of awards for his performance, including an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In the film, Waltz speaks fluently in four different languages - German, French, English, and Italian - a remarkable achievement.
The plot involves a cinema owner in Paris who is selected by the German high command to premiere a German propaganda film involving a Wehrmacht soldier who singlehandedly killed hundreds of American soldiers in combat. The cinema owner is played by Mélanie Laurent, a French actress. She's planning to burn down her theater to kill the top Nazis who will be gathered there. She's unaware of a plan by the basterds to blow up her theater to kill the top Nazis, including Adolph Hitler. Things get very dicey as Colonel Landa suspects something is up.
It's a wonderfully fast-paced, enjoyable film with a surprise twist at the end, but be forewarned that there is a lot of violence and some downright gruesome scenes. I gave the film a 9 on IMDB.
Tarantino is an.... Interesting guy, to say the least. There are some wonderful performances here, not the least of which is Pitt's take on a southern redneck nazi killer.
As with all Tarantino, it must be expected that there is going to be excessive violence, and Basterds doesn't shirk in that regard. My issue with the violence is that it's done in a way that seems more like porn, or violence for the sake of violence, rather than it being used as a cinematic tool to immerse us in the world in question. Much of what Tarantino does is so over the top, I'm not sure I'm qualified to ascertain what world he's thinking about, frankly.
Yet among all that, there are scenes of great subtlety, conveying fear, love, menace, and humor with a truly masterful touch. War is such a conundrum, maybe Tarantino gets something I don't.
Song, and music in general, is key to any Tarantino film, from Reservoir Dogs ("Stuck in the Middle With You") to Pulp Fiction ("Flowers on the Wall") and Jackie Brown ("Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time"). In Inglorious Basterds the key is the Morricone-like soundtrack that, as in Leone's films, asks us to feel the joy of the filmmaking -- the bravura assembly of images -- as well as take in more deeply the unfolding story. In this case, it is a tall tale, with many moving parts: a group of wild American Jews are put together by the American military in World War II to kill and scalp Nazis, and as the story spins up from scenes such as the early one in the German forest with the killing of a German soldier by baseball bat, we come, perhaps naturally, to an attack on the Fuhrer himself in a movie theater which has most recently played a G.W. Pabst film starring Leni Riefenstahl. There is the leader of the Basterds (played with opera buffa joy by Brad Pitt), there is the escaped Jewish girl (played with fragility and steel by Melanie Laurent) and, among a couple of dozen other speaking parts, there is the "Jew Hunter," played by Christoph Walz with a certain kind of aesthete's lightly curtailed rage that is exciting, terrifying and nervily humorous to watch. It is a film of wrought performances, and Walz's is the best.
Note: if you purchase this Blu-ray/Digital package from a third-party seller, as I did, you may find that the code for downloading the digital copy has already been redeemed. You still get the Blu-ray disk, but half of the bargain is lost.
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