Inglourious Basterds

Rated 5.0

In his gloriously imperfect Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino distills every war movie he’s ever seen into one potent, funny, morally indefensible, nine-tenths brilliant “impossible mission” flick. Ironically, the biggest influence here isn’t a war film, but Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, with its mix of history and fable, and its singular, slow-building scenes (the opening and closing sequences of Basterds are instant classics). Brad Pitt plays the Tennessee-bred leader of the Basterds, a bushwhacking band of Jewish avenging angels who make the Nazis seem positively merciful. They’re just one of several groups plotting revenge against the Germans, but Tarantino also finds time for Churchill, Goebbels, David Bowie and a lengthy take on the Nazi film industry. All this, and I haven’t even mentioned Christophe Waltz, who steals the movie as the disturbingly genial Jew hunter Hans Landa. D.B.