Set in World War II, Inglourious Basterds has no real focal point.
It is more like an implausible series coincidences in search of a climax. Central to the story is Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine. In an over-the-top and very funny Southern drawl, Pitt’s Raine tells a group of Jewish volunteers that they’re going to conduct an underground war in Nazi-occupied Europe to terrorize and kill Nazis — pronounced Natzis.
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In Europe, they cause enough chaos to concern the Nazi of all Natzs — Adolph Hitler — who wants them stopped at any cost.
Their eventual nemesis is Christoph Waltz’s Col. Hans Landa, a nasty, opportunistic Nazi who, through a bit of luck and many side trips, encounters the Basterds at a movie premiere.
Between Raine and Landa are characters connected to both that are violently and predictably pushed toward a date with destiny at the theater.
Other than the irresistible title misspelling, there are three important reasons to see Inglourious Basterds. Nos. 1 and 2 are Oscar-worthy performances from Pitt and Waltz, who have a blast with their characters. Few actors can do goofy better than Pitt. His eyes light up, and he has to practically swallow his tongue to keep from laughing as he delivers lines for his purposely over-written character.
He doesn’t laugh, but you will.
In feigned Eddie Haskell politeness and using rubbery facial expressions, twitches and ticks, a dangerous Waltz dances through the film stealing scene after scene. He may prove to be the best Tarantino villain of all time. While some may debate that, few doubt that Waltz’s performance is the best acting this year in any category.
It is acting perfection.
Third is writer/director Quentin Tarantino. You hate to put Tarantino in a box and define what he does as a style. His is unlimited in a limited, predictable sort of way. Throw a dozen outrageous characters at the screen and stick them in equally shocking plots and sub-plots and see what sticks.
Early in the career, everything stuck. Pummeled by critics over his cheesy effort in Grindhouse and the decent but sometimes disappointing Kill Bill one and two, Tarantino has gone back to his roots and ripped pages from his Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs playbook.
Good move. Inglourious Basterds is one of the year’s best and the best Tarantino has been in a decade.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for extreme and graphic violence, language. It opens Friday, Aug. 21 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.