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Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

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The difficulty in reviewing a film like Inglourious Basterds is that it's really two films mashed up into one. One of those films concerns a young Jewish woman named Shoshanna who exacts a brilliant revenge against the Nazis who murdered her family. The other regards a group of mostly Jewish-American military assassins (the titular "Basterds") who scour the French countryside killing everyone in a German uniform. What's strangely problematic about Inglourious Basterds is that while the latter story is full of Quentin Tarantino's characteristic bluster and brio, you can't wait to get back to Shoshanna and find out what's happening with her life.

The film opens in Nazi-occupied France with the introduction of one Colonel Hans Landa the "Jew Hunter" (a weirdly compelling Christoph Waltz). He arrives at a farmhouse to ferret out a Jewish family that once lived in the area and is now, presumably, in hiding. In what may be the film's most meticulously crafted and measured sequence, Landa and the dairy farmer circle each other in conversation, one calmly digging to expose the truth while the other nervously strives to keep his secrets. Of course, Landa ultimately triumphs, but in a moment of singular irony, he inadvertently creates the agent of his own downfall by the very act of trying to destroy her.