Much of the tension throughout comes from the stellar Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. Also known as “The Jew Hunter,” Waltz makes every scene he works in interesting somehow. The opening scene with Waltz and the superb Dennis Menochet is worth the price of admission alone. Not only does Waltz know how to make you hang on his every word, he does it while alternating between English, French, German, and Italian. Landa's hunt for Jews, which he likens to rats, takes him throughout Nazi occupied France and drives much of the action in the film. Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine pushes another story line as the leader of the Basterds, who are, you guessed it, a platoon of American Jews, each on a mission to capture 100 Nazi scalps. Pitt plays Raine as the consummate cartoon tough guy, and his accent and lines are often more comical than anything else. The performance meshes well with the pulpy, make believe world of heroes and villains that Tarantino has created though. Some of the most entertaining moments in the film in fact, involve the laughs that Pitt's accent and tough guy act provide.
As for the Basterds, the characters are pretty thin, and none are very memorable aside from Til Schweiger as the German born, Nazi turncoat member of the Basterds, Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz. Michael Fassbender also does some notably fantastic work with his limited screen time as the British Lt. Archie Hicox, as does Diane Kruger in the role of the German actress Bridget Von Hammersmark. Strong performances aside, what makes this film worth watching is Tarantino's effort to blend and bend the genre into something different and all his own. He avoids the tribute to honor and bravery that is so typical of World War II films, in favor of something that moves in another direction, something that's tougher to define. My hunch is that he knows all to well how many films have paid that tribute already. I applaud the effort to create something different, but more than anything, I appreciate the fact that he still knows how to keep it entertaining. Don't take my word for it though. This is one of those films you've got to go out and see for yourself.