Quentin Tarantino takes no more than the risible title from Enzo G.Castellari's Dirty Dozen knockoff of 1978, and respells, misspells, that. (Did he ponder Basturds as possibly funnier?) Much of the movie, a revisionist revisitation of the French theater of operations in the Second World War, is unapologetically, unsanctimoniously silly. Yet the revisions give you plenty to chew on. You need no extraordinary expertise to realize that Tarantino has played fast and loose with the facts of how and when the Third Reich fell, has indeed set sail into a parallel universe. The size of the falsification (a Big Lie about the foremost perpetrator of the Big Lie) is the difference between just another sneaky Hollywood falsification and a brazen joke on all such falsifications. It perhaps goes without saying that Tarantino's treatment of Nazis is not motivated by any sense of horror and outrage (never mind sanctimony) over the philosophy of Aryan supremacy, the death camps, and so on, much less by any desire to "understand," but solely by the need of a universally acceptable villain. He wants to do nothing more to Nazis, nothing worse, than to conventionalize them, fictionalize them. Knowingly nudging his depiction beyond the silly and into the campy, he lures you onto the battlefield of aesthetics, safely away from politics. Once there, he's got you where he wants you. Where his movie can better repel attack. In the end — at the close of two and a half hours — it stands as arguably his best-made to date, scene after scene meticulously shaped and timed, not to mention gleamingly photographed by Robert Richardson. While he is serious where it counts — the architectonic solidity, the painstaking precision, the creative flair, of the camera angles and compositions — he is also funny wherever he chooses, picking his spots and racking up an impressive ratio of successes to attempts. Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Laurent, Daniel Brühl, Diane Kruger. (2009) — Duncan Shepherd
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