This gruesome World War II saga stars Brad Pitt as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a half-breed hillbilly from Tennessee who assembles an all-Jewish unit of American GIs for a Nazi scalp-hunting party across occupied France. Superficially, the storyline resembles that genre of classic war flicks from the Sixties which revolved around a ragtag team of irregulars undertaking a dangerous mission behind enemy lines.
The difference, here, is that Tarantino has, in his trademark fashion, upped the ante in terms of gratuitous gore. This, while devoting considerable time to character development in service of a fanciful tale of sweet revenge that's partly historical, partly the product of his own fertile imagination.
The film opens in 1941 in a rural region of France where we find a notorious Nazi colonel known as "The Jew Hunter" (Christoph Waltz) intensely interrogating a dairy farmer (Denis Menochet) suspected of hiding Jews. To save his own skin, the frightened Frenchman points out the precise spot under the floorboards of his home where the Dreyfus family lies huddled together breathlessly. Soon, soldiers with machine guns are surreptitiously summoned, and the only survivor of the ensuing carnage is a daughter, Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), who miraculously escapes into the countryside.
By 1944, the traumatized young woman has resurfaced as the manager of a modest movie theater she operates with the help of her Black boyfriend, Marcel (Jacky Ido). When she is informed that Hitler himself (Martin Wuttke) will be attending the premiere of a new Nazi propaganda film she's hosting, she decides to make the most of a golden opportunity to avenge the murder of her relatives.
Meanwhile, Aldo the Apache and his Hebrew-heritaged recruits exact their own measure of revenge for the Holocaust as they embark on a sadistic reign of terror during which they gleefully gut German soldiers in a variety of ways, including bashing brains with a baseball bat, slicing off scalps and carving swastikas into foreheads. The parallel plots finally merge when the gang gets word of Hitler's coming to the theater from a glamorous spy (Diane Kruger).
Tarantino again proves himself a master yarn-spinner adept at keeping his audience both entertained and on edge for the duration, ever so deliberately milking the maximum amount of tension out of each of his tautly-edited five acts. A seamless tour de force not to be missed, or to be taken on an empty stomach.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, graphic violence and brief sexuality.
Running time: 153 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
2-Disc DVD Extras: Extended and alternate scenes, domestic and international trailers, roundtable discussion with Tarantino, Brad Pitt and film critic Elvis Mitchell, gag reel, digital copy of the film, and much more.
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