Starting with a gobsmacked VHS screening of Reservoir Dogs way back in '92, I've seen every Quentin Tarantino movie dozens upon dozens of times, but Inglourious Basterds is the first I will have seen only once before writing about it. Like the absolute best entries cinema history has to offer, his work demands repeat viewing, as much to catch all the in-jokes, references and homages as to see their cumulative, strikingly original impact. All of which is why I can only try to sufficiently deconstruct, classify and characterize Tarantino's latest, a wartime opus whose shortcomings upon first viewing are as immediately recognizable as the fact they will after many more of them prove to be virtues, ultimately creating a singular tribute to WWII movies done in the writer-director's signature, genre-bending style.
While the star of the film is really the story, there are three characters who cement together Inglourious Basterds' unwieldy but surprisingly even-weighted chapters. First, there's Colonel Landa (Christoph Waltz), a Nazi officer who earned the nickname "the Jew hunter" thanks to his indefatigable, shoe-leather-and-shark's-grin persistence. Next, there's Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), one of Landa's few targets who escaped, who lives under an assumed name and manages a French cinema. And then there's Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), an American soldier who recruits a rabid team of Jews to hunt down Nazis and strike fear with their exploits.