[Above: American Brad Pitt enjoys top billing but it is lesser-known Austrian actor Christoph Waltz who, as the Nazi colonel Hans Landa, who steals the show.]
By Yong Shu Hoong
Inglourious Bastards (M18)
AFTER watching Inglourious Basterds, the latest release from cult writer-director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill), I realised I'd been under themistaken impression that Brad Pitt is the main star.
After all, the American actor enjoys top billing in the movie's cast listing.
And acting-wise, he is commendable as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, the quirky commander of a World War II guerilla outfit (nicknamed "the Basterds") that targets Nazi soldiers for surprise assaults.
This Southern gent wants each of his men to bring him 100 Nazi scalps, for example, and has a plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
But it is lesser-known Austrian actor Christoph Waltz who, as the Nazi colonel Hans Landa, steals the show.
His Jew-hunting villain has the right balance of evil, intelligence and also an ironic, sometimes absurd, sense of humour, making him so much more than a stereotype or a caricature.
As you might have guessed by now, Tarantino's revenge fantasy takes the irreverent approach by audaciously inverting history and gleefully portraying Nazis getting maimed, disfigured, tortured and massacred for a change as the director trots out an alternative WWII ending.
One might accuse the filmmaker of being self-indulgent in dragging out some of his scenes, but isn't that Tarantino all over?
And the fact remains that he handles tension very well.
A classic example is the movie's Chapter One, where Landa, in a protracted but unforgettable scene, tries to sniff out if a family in German-occupied France is harbouring Jews.
But the viewer will find that as more characters - like a war orphan (Melanie Laurent), a young Nazi hero (Daniel Bruhl), a German actress (Diane Kruger) and a British commando (Michael Fassbender) - get thrown into the film's equation, fully fleshed characters (or just memorable ones) are in short supply.
Ultimately, it is Waltz's hard-to-ignore presence that helps link the various episodes together, and it's anyone's guess as to whether the Basterds' "Kill Hitler" plan succeeds.
But as far as memorable scenes and classic lines (not forgetting some blood-spattering moments) are concerned, this new Tarantino film sure is a winner.
Expect this movie - and Waltz in particular (he has already snagged a Best Actor award in Cannes this year) - to chalk up nominations in the next Oscars race.
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