This is some movie. It’s scary, emotionally draining, funny, exciting, tense, thoughtful, violent, whimsical, cruel, and in a few places, just plain weird.
It also has the most striking and emotionally draining opening sequence of any film I’ve seen since Saving Private Ryan. How you can watch the opening farmhouse scene without fidgeting, then squirming, then finally averting your eyes, is beyond me. Rolled up in that one lengthy sequence is one of the most shattering and horrifying depictions of the banality of evil and cruelty I think has ever been committed to film. It makes me want to reach out and slap the people I see on TV who so glibly refer to people they disagree with politically as “Nazis.”
Then there’s Brad Pitt. His character is totally open, forthright, and nuts, all at the same time. It’s an amazing performance. The standout, though, is Christoph Waltz. What could have become a caricature of a character is charming, self effacing, erudite, cultured — and terrifying.
The film is also beautiful. Color, composition, lighting — all contribute to a feel of realistic artifice that never lets you forget this is a Movie while at the same time providing glimpses of the underlying truths it is illustrating.
Text copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald