|Christoph Waltz, the real star of Basterds|
Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) is the sole survivor when her Jewish family -- hiding under the floorboards in a farm in Nazi-occupied France -- are wiped out under the orders of SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Years later she and Landa meet when she (under an assumed name) is the owner of a movie theater in Paris and the boyish German war hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl) takes a liking to her. Like a German Audie Murphy, Zoller has starred in a film about his exploits entitled "Nation's Pride" and wants it to be premiered at Shosanna's theater with top Nazi leaders, including Hitler, in attendance. Shosanna and her lover Marcel (Jacky Ido) love the idea of wiping out all of the Germans in one fell swoop but have no idea that others have the same notion, such as a group of Nazi-scalpers known as the "Inglourious Basterds" headed by a good ole Southern boy named Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt). I've never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino's -- and even this film hasn't quite convinced me of his alleged genius -- but at least he's come up with a genuinely intriguing storyline instead of childish drek like Kill Bill. The trouble is that some of Tarantino's "touches" get in the way and the film is at least thirty minutes too long. For instance the taut opening scene at the farmhouse is so lengthy that the tension almost dissipates. Robert Richardson's photography is top of the line, and there are a lot of fine actors in the movie -- and Brad Pitt. Pitt is given top billing but the real star, if it's anyone, is the superb Christoph Waltz as the slimiest Nazi to come down the pike in a long time. [The scene when he ingests and thoroughly enjoys a French pastry with whipped cream on it had my mouth-watering, but I digress.] When he and Pitt appear in the same scene it's like they're not in the same movie. Laurent is also excellent, as is Bruhl, Michael Fassbender as a British Lieutenant, Diane Kruger as a German actress who's secretly fighting against the Nazi's, Alexander Fehling as Sgt. Wilhelm who figures in an important scene in a cafe, and Denis Menochet as the farmer in the opening scene and others. Mike Myers has a cameo as a British general and an unrecognizable Rod Taylor plays Winston Churchill! With some audacious, unpredictable developments at the end, the movie sort of goes off into fantasy land but remains entertaining. You get the feeling it would have been a lot better had someone else written and helmed besides Tarantino, who seems more interested in effect than human emotion.
Verdict: No Judgment at Nuremberg [if you're talking about films dealing with the evils of Nazi Germany] but absorbing, beautifully acted by most of the cast, and with several striking and tense sequences. ***.