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Posted: August 25, 2009 4:31 p.m.

‘Basterds’ among Pitt, Tarantino’s best movies yet

Trying to categorize "Inglorious Basterds" is nearly impossible. Is it a World War II action movie? Well, sort of. Is it a comedy or a drama? Both. Is it a Brad Pitt movie? Yes, but he’s really not in it that much. I guess the best way to describe "Basterds" is that it is the most Quentin Tarantino movie Quentin Tarantino has ever directed.

Fans of the eccentric director will find a lot to like here. Like most of Tarantino’s movies, a large portion of "Basterds" is built around extended dialogues that most directors would have left on the cutting room floor, but that he somehow makes work. "Basterds" opens with one such scene between the "Jew Hunter" Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and a French dairy farmer who has hidden a Jewish family beneath his floorboards. Tarantino manages to build an almost unbearably tense scene out of ten minutes of two men conversing in pleasant tones.

The scene sets two of the film’s three connected story lines in motion. Landa is clearly established as the villain who will work his charming way through the lives of the other main characters including Shosanna, (Mélanie Laurent) the only survivor of the colonel’s massacre at the dairy farm. Years after the murder of her family, Shosanna has disguised her Jewish heritage and now runs a movie theater. She unwittingly catches the eye of a young Nazi solider whose bravery has earned him a starring role in movie based on his heroics. Because of his crush on Shosanna, he convinces the propaganda minister to move the movie’s premiere to her theater. When she learns of her good fortune, Shosanna decides the only course of action left is to burn the theater down with most of the German high command locked inside.

The third story line revolves around the basterds, a group of mostly Jewish Americans determined to inflict maximum damage on the Germans in the most violent ways possible. The group is led by Tennessean and part Apache Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who expects his men to collect for him at least 100 Nazi scalps or die trying. The group gains notoriety among the Germans because of their brutality including crushing heads with a baseball bat and cutting swastikas into any survivor’s forehead. When the British military gets wind of the German movie premiere, the basterds are called in to assist in blowing the theater sky high.

While being set during World War II obviously limits some of his normal pop culture references, Tarantino still manages to slip in some pretty awesome peculiarities including two cutaway bits of narration with long time collaborator Samuel L. Jackson. Anyone who does not get Tarantino’s style or who would be offended by a very revisionist’s view of history should not waste their money. But fans of the director will find the film to be a solid entry. For better or worse, "Basterds" is World War II as only Tarantino could do it.

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