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Heroes of the Zeroes: Inglourious Basterds

by on May 30, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Inglourious Basterds”
Rated R
2009

Quentin Tarantino revived his flagging career in a major way with this visually dynamic, unrepentantly tense, swiftly violent, unpredictably anachronistic and exceptionally comic slice of revisionist World War II history.

Tarantino beat and bloodied the idea of an “Ocean’s” movie into something simultaneously larkish and substantial with its tale of vengeful Jewish-American soldiers scalping Nazis, a Jewish theater owner seeking her own revenge and the vicious Nazi colonel Hans Landa’s (Oscar winner Christoph Waltz) intersection in both plots.

Landa’s evil feels as methodical and suddenly painful as a needle under a fingernail, and Waltz injects stately menace and mayhem into every moment. (His introductory interrogation makes for one of Tarantino’s most mesmerizing scenes.)

Landa is a German Jules Winnfield, only with no thirst for redemption from a vicious life of hunting and extermination. The man eats strudel the way he tears into victims — little nibbles mixed with ravenous bites — to create one of the Zeroes’ most nefarious villains.

Some knocked Tarantino for wasting time with this 2009 film. Yet, by weaving in parables about propaganda and the propensity for cinematic flourishes in wartime, he earned eruptions into fast, consequential violence. Also, note how cinematographer Robert Richardson’s nature-based motif of moths, leaves, dust, smoke and blood culminated in a haunting payoff.

Introducing Hitler in a billowing cape worthy of a comic-book villain showed moral relativism wasn’t part of Tarantino’s plan. With purposeful misspelling to fit intentionally brash rewriting of history, “Basterds” was what Tarantino’s back half of “Grindhouse” should’ve been.

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