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Revenge, evil and violence dissected

For Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction alone, we should all still worship Quentin Tarantino. Even if, after a few duds, we mightn't feel like it. Infuriating, patchy at times (remember Death Proof?), but always interesting, the chic geek now brings us his take on the war movie genre.

Aside from a great opening, and a few nice set pieces, it's not your typical war movie. I was expecting a modern Dirty Dozen, but this is talkier than that and leaves you pondering whether we become monsters if we fight them.

Set at the height of the Second World War, it centres on a group of Jewish resistance fighters in their work of slaughtering as many Nazi soldiers by scalping them. They don't take prisoners, but cunningly leave one soldier alive after each raid, carving a swastika in his forehead to terrify others and give him a mark of shame for when the war ends.

They're led by earnest and hillbillyish Lieutenant Aldo Raine (an excellent Brad Pitt) and in turn are hunted by an evil "Jew Hunter", Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz).

Tying together a number of disparate stories, the Basterds are roped in by Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) to avenge the death of her family by taking out the Nazi top brass -- including Adolf Hitler himself.

She aims to ambush the leadership at a small Parisian cinema which is screening the premiere of Joseph Goebbels's (Sylvester Groth) latest work of propaganda. She gets the Nazi leadership to turn up for the trap, using herself as a honey trap.

A bloody revenge fantasy in the vein of Kill Bill, it's even better than those two efforts, with super performances throughout, with Waltz and Pitt, though locked against each other, equally chilling.

Too long at 153 minutes, it's not a classic, but it'll keep you thinking about the nature of evil long after.

DVD extras: A second disc has extended and alternate scenes and a roundtable discussion with Tarantino and Pitt, and several making-of featurettes.


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