Inglourious Basterds

Rated 3.0

This giddily revisionist war-movie mash-up will be called writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s most mature film, but all that really means is that it’s his least irritating. At least ol’ Q.T. understands that moviemakers revisiting the plight of Jews during World War II ought now to avoid the gingerly tedious subgenre of Serious Holocaust Drama, so often rendered trivial by the enormity of history. So how about making triviality the point to begin with? How about a cinema-worshipping adolescent fantasy of tense anticipation, mouthy wit, beautiful women, brave men and brutal vengeance—writ large via swastikas carved into foreheads and skulls cracked open with a baseball bat or a hail of gunfire to the face? Better? In lieu of strong characterization, Inglourious Basterds has magnetic performances—and even a brilliant one, from the diabolically charismatic, cliche-redeeming Christoph Waltz. In lieu of development, it has skillfully sadistic suspense, which inevitably peters into its own kind of tedium. The movie has no heart, but it gets by on typical Tarantino gumption.