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Inglourious Basterds


Stars: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Brühl, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Til Schweiger, B J Novak, Mike Myers

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino rewrites WW2 history in this groaningly overlong war movie which mixes a tongue-in-cheek approach with some altogether more serious scenes, to the accompaniment of mainly Ennio Morricone music that underlines the spaghetti western feel of at least the earlier scenes.

Pitt, sporting a moustache and broad accent, is extravagantly over the top as the backwoods boy from Tennessee who heads a small squad of Jewish-Americans, Dirty Dozen-style, who parachute into France and set about killing as many Germans as possible, scalping their victims (in bloody close-up) and leaving survivors with a swastika cut into their foreheads.

On the other side, 'Jew hunter' Hans Landa (Waltz) is assigned to round up Jews in France. His men mow down one family hiding under the floorboards of a French farm, only Shosanna (Laurent) escaping. She turns up again three years later in a suburb of Paris, running a cinema that turns into the focus for the second half of the film.

All the top Nazi leaders are due to attend the premiere there of a film starring heroic solder Fredrick Zoller (Bruhl), who has become sweet on Shosanna. Film star Bridget (Krüger) is on the Allied side, bringing in Pitt and his men and an English officer (Fassbender) to kill Hitler, Goebbels and Co. Meanwhile Shosanna has plans of her own to burn down her cinema with 350 Nazis in it. And Landa re-emerges...

Undoubtedly this is the film that Tarantino wanted to make, but either it's a spoof or it isn't. Either it's comic-strip or it's realistic. Here, the director fatally confuses the two. Scenes between Landa and Shosanna over an apple strudel and a later strangulation by Landa of an Allied collaborator are tinglingly well done, but all the scenes featuring Pitt and/or Fassbender have a joky, unreal feel.

And it's a pity such a good villain as Waltz is given an ignominious ending. He should have been shot by Shosanna.

In typical nudge-nudge Tarantino style, several of the characters are given names of actors and directors from this brand of continental action film in the 1970s - Aldo Raine (Ray), Hugo Stiglitz, Antonio Margheriti, Ed(wige) Fenech etc. Even Rod Taylor, Australian-born star of a few such epics. crops up here as, of all people, Winston Chiurchill.

Tarantino fans will lap this up, but it's not, perhaps, a film to convert the sceptics.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Universal . Colour by deluxe.
153 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 16 Aug 2009