Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MARCH MADNESS: Inglorious Basterds (3) vs. The Great Raid (14)

ACTING: “Inglorious Basterds” is a Quentin Tarantino film with his usual eclectic cast. It stars Brad Pitt as Aldo Raines who leads a special commando squad behind enemy lines. The character is over the top and Pitt takes a deep bite into the role (as well as the foreheads of Nazis). He is not even the best actor in the film. That honor goes to the amazing Christophe Waltz as the charmingly malevolent S.S. Col. Hans Landa. The female leads, Diane Kruger as actress Bridget von Hammersmark and Melanie Laurent as the Jewish cinema operator Shoshanna, are amazing. “The Great Raid” has a B-list cast headed by Benjamin Bratt as Col. Henry Mucci and James Franco as his subordinate Bob Prince. It also has a beautiful blond (Connie Nielsen as Margaret Utinsky) who plays the nurse helping the Filipino Resistance. The cast is capable, but unspectacular.

Score at the end of the first period: Basterds – 10 Raid – 7

REALISM: Did I mention Basterds is a Tarantino film? ‘Nuff said. It is one of the most unrealistic war films ever made. It makes the “Dirty Dozen” look like a documentary. It would be hard to find anything that happens in the film that is plausible. But that is not the point. It is meant to be outlandish. For this reason, I give it a default 6. Raid does a good job portraying life in a Japanese prison camp and the difficulties of a raid behind enemy lines. The romance is, of course, unrealistic and you have some other Hollywood contrivances, but on the whole most of it rings true.

Score at half: Basterds – 16 Raid – 15

ACCURACY: Did you know that we killed Hitler and his high command when he attended a movie premier in Paris after D-Day? Did you know that during WWII we had an elite commando unit in occupied France which slaughtered and scalped Nazi soldiers? If you did, you think like Tarantino – get to a psychiatrist immediately! Default 6 again. Raid is based on the books The Great Raid on Cabanatuan by William Breuer and The Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. I have read Sides’ book and it was one of the best books I have ever read. The movie does not live up to it, but none could. I was prepared to be severely disappointed. The movie is actually quite true to the book, other than the romance. Surprisingly, the Utinsky character is faithful to the truth. The raid itself is close to what happened, but with the typical Hollywood bullshit that insists on a showdown with the evil camp commandant. The little touches are right. For example, the fly-over to distract the Japanese. If you did not want to read the books, the movie retells the story in an educational way.

Score after three periods: Basterds – 22 Raid – 24

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Basterds was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Waltz won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It has some amazing scenes, especially the French farmhouse opening, the basement bar showdown, and the explosive and fiery mass assassination. Several deaths are shocking in a good way. Tarantino’s style and homages to familiar movies are mesmerizing. Raid looks like a made for TV movie. A good one, but it lacks the pizazz a great war movie has. The raid itself is one of the best action war scenes in recent memory. It deserves credit for reviving a story that was huge in 1945, but had been forgotten over the decades.

Score at the end of regulation:  Basterds - 31  Raid - 31

FINAL SCORE: Raid 32 Basterds – 31

*** In overtime, Raid wins because it is a pure war movie and honors the most successful rescue mission in American History.


  1. I started watching Inglorious Basterds but never finished it, will have to give it a try on another day and I had never heard of The Great Raid before you mentioned it.

  2. Melanie Laurent does a great job. She is a French actress. Is she well known in Switzerland? I am not surprised you have not heard of the Great Raid, most Americans haven't. It was just dumped in the theaters with little marketing and did not do well. I sincerely think the book Ghost Soldiers is the best book I have read in the last five years.

  3. I had mixed feelings on Inglorious Basterds but enjoyed it overall. Tarintino just plain worships his violence too much for me. Very good set pieces tho, especially the scene in the cabin you mentioned (like most tarintino maybe a bit too long on talk, but the talk was well written and acted) and the finale where they turned the theatre into Hitler Hell. I also liked how Pitt had to try to bluff his way in the lobby of the theatre. the baseball bat scene was needless and strictly tarintino showing off with his buddy Eli Roth. This would have never been a best pic contender with the old 5 picture limit however. Waltz is terrific in every one of his scenes. Pitt was good but the accent was kinda silly. Makes you realize how good Lee Marvin was in Dirty Dozen, a much better picture. Each of the soldiers in DD had a backstory of some type. Cant say the same for the Basterds.
    Not much comment on Raid. Never trust a movie where they change the name from the original book title. Decent. The Great Raid...please. about as unoriginal as you can get. Zero star power too. But a good story is a good story so it is watchable. Side's book was very good you are right. Nothing wrong with that title. I figure hollywood was worried that people would think it was a western with indians. Tossing in the nurse story was plain filler and not needed.

  4. I agree with everything you say about Basterds. I enjoyed it more that I thought I would. I generally do not like "what if" movies or books.

    I also agree that The Great Raid would have been much better titled "The Ghost Soldiers". My theory is there may have been a fear that people would think it was a horror movie and maybe the fact it was based on two books was a factor. If you feel the romance was pure filler (which I agree), then you are indicting an awful lot of war movies.

  5. Please add two points in your Acting section for Joseph Fiennes and the remarkable Martin Skotas. Also take away one point for Mike Meyer's weird turn as a British officer in Basterds.

  6. Okay. A Morton Csokas fan? Does the fan club meet in a phone booth? LOL I have to admit he played a very unlikeable character in the movie. You are certainly right about Meyers. Talk about extremes in supporting actors!

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