Starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and Mélanie Laurent. In English, French, German, and Italian with English subtitles. Rated 18A.
Quentin Tarantino does World War II? Actually, Inglourious Basterds is QT’s intoxicatingly exuberant double take on the World War II movie, as reimagined by Sergio Leone and Roger Corman.
Watch the trailer for Inglourious Basterds.
Typically for the Pulp Fiction–eer and multiple Bill killer, the new effort is longer on film references than actual story, although plenty of the latter is scattered over 153 quick minutes of mayhem, menace, and surprisingly intimate drama.
Only part of the narrative is driven by the misspelled antiheroes of the title, a band of Jewish G.I.s and renegade Germans led by Tennessee-twanging Brad Pitt, at his hard-edged funniest. While the IBs spread gruesome terror behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France (the biggest monster turns out to be Hostel director Eli Roth), various plot lines are connected by a foxy SS detective played by the movie-stealing Christoph Waltz, a Viennese-born James Woods type who’s lethally charming in French, English, German, and Italian—all the more remarkable because Tarantino’s tight script is playfully sharp in all languages.
While pursuing his own agenda, the SS man tries to unravel parallel plans to bump off the Nazi high command at a movie theatre run by a beautiful blond (Mélanie Laurent), who has attracted the eye of a German war hero (Goodbye Lenin!’s Daniel Brí¼hl). Certainly, placing an art-deco cinema as the locus of his grandiose revenge saga gives Tarantino much opportunity to drop period nods to Leni Riefenstahl and Danielle Darrieux—not that this stops him from using 1970s typography or a David Bowie song during one key sequence. If “This Machine Kills Fascists” were painted on the side of a film projector here, it wouldn’t look out of place.