Thrills trump accuracy in Tarantino’s WWII fantasy


Inglourious Basterds is director Quentin Tarantino’s glorious, bloody World War II adventure that is more about movies than history. Anyone looking for historical accuracy should look elsewhere.

It is WWII as gangster film — a suspenseful tale of revenge and bloodbaths — unfolding like typical historical fiction until it leaps off a cliff. The stunning, breathtaking cinema may make you want to stand up and cheer, but it leaves you slightly disturbed at the same time.


Tarantino’s deliberately misspelled film starring Brad Pitt is a mix of movie homage, historical tidbits and crowd-pleasing wish fulfillment — a combination that made it an audience hit at Cannes this year. The story follows two tracks, one about a young French Jewish woman who loses her family to a brutal, cunning German colonel and the other about a commando troupe of American Jewish soldiers who parachute into Nazi-occupied France to kick some Nazi posterior in very bloody-fashion.

The latter portion is loosely a remake or, more accurately, a re-mix, of caper-like action films such as The Dirty Dozen, Guns of Navarone, and a 1978 Italian knock-off of the genre, Inglorious Bastards, whose director has a bit part in this film as himself.

Tarantino, who also wrote the script, crafts his own satisfying, bloody version of WWII fiction, going further into a dark fairytale of revenge worthy of Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. The director presents the story in chapters, in keeping with its “once upon a time” opening.

Both emotionally resonate and disturbingly gory, Inglourious Basterds is Tarantino in top form as he takes on the Nazis.

Lieutenant Aldo Raines (Pitt) is a drawling Southerner who recruits an elite corps of Jewish American soldiers to parachute into France in the first year of Nazi occupation. The group’s task is to act as a guerrilla force, killing Nazis in the most gruesome fashion possible and demoralizing the German forces. The corps is so effective, its members quickly earn a nickname, the “basterds,” among the German troops.

Among Raines’ commandos is the fearsome, baseball bat-wielding Donny Donowitz, nicknamed “the Bear,” played in menacing style by Eli Roth.

Meanwhile, a family of French Jewish dairy farmers is being hidden by their non-Jewish neighbors, until cunning, multi-lingual German Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), sets off a chilling cat-and-mouse tale. Young Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) escapes and hides by assuming a new identity in Paris, as the owner of a small cinema, with the aid of an Afro-French projectionist Marcel (Jacky Ido).

The two stories converge when Raines’ group is given an assignment to aid German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) in a plot to kill top Nazi leaders visiting Paris, where Shosanna is plotting her own revenge.

Laced with horror-film humor and taut suspense, the film also mixes in bits of historical fact and packs in more movies references than you can count. Reportedly, Tarantino first started working on this story a decade ago, before the Kill Bill films, so this has been a long-simmering project. It is, however, the kind