I'll save everyone the problem of waiting for a plot spoiler, so here it is: The Japanese win at the end of the movie. And that ending is really really boring.

Seriously though, Inglourious Basterds is a film sure to appeal to many history buffs and wargamers. A tour de force from the inimitable Quentin Tarantino, the leading practitioner of intelligent action movies, it is part spaghetti western, blaxploitation film (with an almost all-white cast, magically), crossed with The Dirty Dozen.

Much has been made by critics about the high level of violence, and truly, Inglourious Basterds is a violent movie, in which mutilation and scalping are perfectly routine. Add to that death by fire, explosion, gunshots, and the odd baseball bat applied to the head.

This is not for the squeamish. But if you like to see National Socialists die, imaginatively and in wholesale quantities, it is certainly the movie for you.

Nor is Inglourious Basterds a movie for people with short attention spans. It is almost two and a half hours long, and much of that time is taken up with French and German dialogue, with English subtitles. In addition, it has several important backstories and plot diversions.

Maybe the biggest disappointment is that Brad Pitt, despite top billing, spends rather little time on the screen as Lt. Aldo "Apache" Raine. An officer devoted to killing Nazis and collecting scalps as trophies, he is a single-minded smiling killer with a Tennessee mountain accent that defies both belief and serious examination. Despite his lethal obsessions, given free rein through his leadership of equally obsessed Jewish soldiers, his performance is one of black comedy, and even at the most tense moments he looks as though he is about to burst out laughing at some private joke.

Horror director and actor Eli Roth is likewise memorable as Donnie Donnewitz, known to the the Germans as "the Bear Jew," whose favorite means of execution happens to be a Louisville Slugger.

However, if there is an Academy Award for any of the actors, it is probably going to be for Best Supporting Actor, and engraved with the name of Christolph Waltz. As SS officer Hans Landa, he is at once urbane, cultured, perceptive, and one of the absolutely most slimy creatures on any screen. Playing a Nazi True Believer bearing the nickname "The Jew Hunter" in a way that blends such moral repulsiveness with a measure of Tarantinoesque black humor is a tall order for any actor, but Waltz carries it off brilliantly.

One might consider this possibly an exclusive vehicle for male actors. Yet Mélanie Laurent turns in a show-stealing performance as the vengeance-minded victim of the Nazis and Diane Kruger provides of a mixture of ambiguous loyalty and playfulness as a glamorous German actress with a secret or two.

So once a time in German-occupied France... Mr. Tarantino had a vision.

Wargamers will no doubt wonder how well history is reflected in Inglourious Basterds. The answer is that the history is about as valid as the spelling of the movie's title. Be advised, if you want accurate military history, go someplace else than Quentin Tarantino's World War II. Indeed, it has even less historical validity than 300.

Still, Inglourious Basterds is well worth the time and money to see it on a big screen.

I rank it three on a scale of five dead Nazis.

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Comment by Jim Bragg on September 16, 2009 at 6:55pm
Went to this flick with the wife and was extremely disappointed. Next time I pick the movie it is going to be some sappy chick flick so the wife will think I am in touch with her feelings. Parts were very good but overall I would have to rate it very poorly.
Comment by D. Owsen on September 7, 2009 at 2:01pm
Just saw this, it was terrific and terrifying. It switches gear from humor (dark humor to be sure) and horror quickly, something that Tanantino can pull off like no other director. The discussion about the message of the film is interesting, as I was wondering the same thing as I walked out of the theater-- what was he trying to say? I think it will take a couple more viewings for me to figure out for myself...
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on September 1, 2009 at 5:27pm
Lisa called me today to tell me about a feature on NPR,'s Talk of the Nation program. It was an interview with a woman who's father was in the British 3 Commando, consisting of Jewish refugees, fighting under assumed and suitably Anglicized names. You can find the page, and a link to an audio stream, here.

Her account, and those of her father's comrades, is remarkably different than what you see in Tarantino's gripping fable.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 29, 2009 at 8:54pm
Killing Nazis is something that Republicans, Democrats, socialists, Communists, and anarchists can all agree, so one can argue that Mr. Tarantino is building bridges amongst all the ideologies.

It's all good... Except perhaps for the Nazis!
Comment by Chris Gammon on August 29, 2009 at 8:39pm
All this banter about the joy of killing socialists. And I thought we weren't supposed to get political anymore! :)
Comment by Chuang Shyue Chou on August 27, 2009 at 8:57pm
I don't think I will be watching this.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on August 27, 2009 at 5:37pm
I think Tarantino was having fun with a lot of old genres, starting with the spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation films, both old favorites of mine by the way. There was also a lot of wordplay and puns, starting with character names; Aldo Raine is apparently a nod to the old character actor Aldo Ray, and I hypothesized that Bridget von Hammersmark was a nod to the old Hammer Films. As so often with a Tarantino film, it's a love song to films.

I view it too as revenge fantasy. There have been articles describing it as the kind of Holocaust revenge fantasy, the kind that every self-respecting Jew would harbor, but no self-respecting Jew would articulate. So Quentin Tarantino did it for them, exacting cinematic payback on the National Socialists.

I don't know if Tarantino was thinking so much of current neo-Nazis and Nazi identifiers, but I certainly do. I am acutely aware that they're still out there, and in a troublesome economy, and in the early months of the first African-American President of the United States (this is NOT a political post, I'm only expressing that Barack Obama is the President), people feel threatened and, shall we say, racistly conscience. To the ignorant and gullible, an ethnically different scapegoat looks really attractive.

I see it a lot, to the point that I've had openly racist and fascist-leaning students speak up in my classes. Sometimes it's the kind of open antisemitism that no one can ignore; statements beginning with the words "You have to admit that the Jews control the banks and the media..." I was happy to see one such guy shouted down by a bunch of younger, equally white students before I could tell him how inappropriate that was.

There's also the kind of antisemitism that uses codewords, such as "I've got nothing against the Jews, but I don't like Zionism or Israel." I've been around the block enough to see that those are codewords for "I hate Jews."

Then there are the Holocaust deniers and the people who make excuses for the Nazis and their killers. I've met them too, and found them most wanting as human beings. In fact, I've been running into that sort for a good twenty years, and disturbingly, they're often young and impressionable.

I can't speak for Quentin Tarantino. Maybe it's best to let his work speak for itself.

Regardless though, Nazis make fine screen villains; they're the representatives of one of the most loathsome regimes in history. As a political science and history professor, I know that the competition, and only Stalin's USSR can really compete with Nazi Germany in terms of scope, scale, and reach of its murderous inclinations.

It's a fantasy yes... But the opening scene is especially disturbing for the way that through it history, that of murder and betrayal, resonates.

If you want to find a deeper social importance to Inglourious Basterds, I believe it is through its use of established film conventions, beloved to the artist, to remind us just who the bad guys happened to be, and how bad.
Comment by Tony on August 27, 2009 at 5:06pm
Your english is fine Jo, no problem.
I understand what you are saying about the movie angle and you could be right.
He does use an awlful amount of graphic violence and images. Maybe that's his way of saying "you people really enjoy this stuff?"

But I can't help but think that there is a deeper purpose and message here about evil's in the world and how we shouldn't take them lightly.
There are still an awlful lot of people that glorify and associate with that terrible regime and what it stood for.
Comment by Jo Bader on August 27, 2009 at 4:53pm
with all respect Tony, I dont agree.
It seams to me he is 'talking' about something 'in Movies', Using allusion from several well known movies. Possibly he is talking about Film in general. Or about War-movies in special. Or people watching War Movies like Private Ryan.
(I know my English is not the best)
Comment by Tony on August 27, 2009 at 4:37pm
I am still thinking about what Mr Tarantino wants to tell his audience
He's probably trying to tell them that Nazi worship and admiration is dangerous?
That people who admire the Nazis still exist and that many believe the holocaust was a hoax (disgusting and sick but true)?
It's probably a warning to not fall into the trap that because it was so long ago it doesn't matter anymore and that if we are not vigilant it can happen again?

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