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.