Synopsis: In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a group of Jewish-American soldiers known as “The Basterds” are chosen specifically to spread fear throughout the Third Reich by scalping and brutally killing Nazis.
Director: Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth (segment “Nation’s Pride”) (uncredited)
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger and Eli Roth
Serious Jest: (Theater) “This ain’t your daddy’s World War II movie.”–Lawrence Bender, one of the producers, at the film’s UK Red Carpet premiere. Well, put, Sir. All in all, this movie is a great experience, and worth buying on blu-ray, as you will probably want to watch this more than once.
Unlike most other WWII films, which either focus on the big military battles, or the horrors committed upon Nazi victims, this one focuses on a group of American Jews who hunt Nazis. In effect, Tarantino taps into the primal, aggressive, violent part of the viewers’ minds, having them cheer as the protagonists find new creative, cool, and brutal ways to destroy their prey; and the viewers allow this side to run free a little, because the “victims” are one of the worst groups of human beings ever in existence! I suspect that even some of those who refuse to beat on hookers in the Grand Theft Auto video games would cheer the Bear Jew as he sends a Nazi skull over the Fenway Wall.
At other times, though, Tarantino shows you the human, even admirable sides of some of the Nazi soldiers, and you even feel sort of bad for them as they fall victim to the Basterds. This is just another example of Tarantino’s talent for presenting unique, interesting characters with both noble and flawed qualities, and captivating dialogue. Each of the actors skillfully executed all of the nuances of their roles, including facial expressions, mannerisms, and speech inflections; but I would have to award co-MVPs to Brad Pitt as Aldo the Apache and Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. Despite the media’s focus on his looks and the whole Brangelina thing, I have always thought Pitt is one of the best actors in film. In this film, he is anything but a pretty boy; instead, he plays a Tennessee hillbilly with an ends-justify-the-means philosophy and a detached talent for violence; not enough actors explore range nowadays, and stay comfortably within their typecast (if you like Pitt in this role, by the way, you may want to check him out in Kalifornia). Waltz’s character also shares Aldo’s violent abilities, but for him, it’s even more impersonal; he sees himself as a sort of detective, or hand of justice, who is simply carrying out his duties, which just happen to involve exterminating Jews. In his head, he is not a bad man, and is a quite reasonable gentleman. Waltz does an amazing job of making you like him and want to brutally kill him at the same time. One small thought: Eli Roth did well as the Bear Jew, but I would have expected a more jacked Jew, like Goldberg, in that role.