ONCE AGAIN, BEWARE: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
After seeing Quentin Tarantino’s much hyped/anticipated “Inglorious Basterds” I was put into an unusual position of contradiction. Yes, I thought it was a well made and in many ways well-executed film…but I hated it. “What? Fuck that!” is what all the fanboy Tarantin-ites and other (probably high school aged) fans of the movie are probably saying right now. Just hear me out.
First a quick rundown of the plot for those who somehow don’t know: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) leads a group of disgruntled Jewish American soldiers called The Basterds on a mission to bomb the upper crust of the Third Reich during a propaganda film premier. Unbeknownst to the Basterds, a German Jew Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), whose family was killed by a brutal yet bizarrely charming Nazi named Col Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), has a similar plan to kill the Nazis as she is the owner of the movie theater holding the premier.
I’ll start off on what was good about the film. Cristoph Waltz was amazing and stole the show as the evil yet charming Nazi Col. Hans Landa. Tarantino delivered on his trademark snappy (albeit self indulgent) dialogue and unpredictable twists. Even Brad Pitt managed to avoid being the non-CG Jar Jar Binks I thought he was going to be from the trailer (“And meesa bein’ wantin’ those bombad scalps!”).
So what was the problem? One word: the setting. Like everyone I was excited to hear all those years back that Tarantino was writing a WWII film which sounded like it was shaping up to be a “men on a mission” tale. “Cool!” we all said. But after seeing the final product I say “Not cool”. Until now Tarantino film’s settings have never been set in a real place with real people. Sure they are set in places that actually exist but the characters occupy worlds where you can carry swords on planes and women and their girlfriends car-surf for fun.
But In “Inglorious Bastards” we have a douche bag Joseph Goebbels and a cape wearing Hitler yelling “NEIN! NEIN! NEIN!” It’s just lame and unnecessary. Unless you’re in the 1940s watching a propaganda film starring Charlie Chaplin or a cartoon with toothy Japanese people. It’s been almost 70 years since the end of WWII and NOW you’re making fun of Hitler? And not only making fun but also anachronistically killing him (since he is of course only guarded by two dimwit soldiers who Eli Roth can punch)? It’s just pointlessly beating a long dead horse. Can you imagine if Indiana Jones had killed Hitler in “Last Crusade”? It would be stupid like it was in “Inglorious Basterds”.
The counter argument to mine is that “Inglorious Basterds” isn’t really about Hitler. But to that I say that since killing him and his team is such a crucial plot point I can’t agree. It just negates everything. While he’s at it Tarantino’s next project should be a “Custard’s Last Stand” film where he kills the shit out of the Indians and then heads to Mexico where he finds El Dorado and talks to a native woman for 40 minutes about early European cinema that doesn’t yet exist.
I also couldn’t help but role my eyes at many parts you know Tarantino smugly thinks are the shit (other than every line of dialogue). Example 1: Til Schweiger’s Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz getting what seemed like a leftover camp flashback treatment from the wretched Death Proof. Come on. Why is this freeze frame stylized text flashing at me in a WWII movie? Answer: because Tarantino saw it in some 70s film and he does whatever he wants. Not only that but it doesn’t ever happen again! Honestly, rather than having this flourish-y distraction I’d love to see more about the other woefully underused Basterds. In fact one of my favorite sketch comedians, Paul Rust (Here’s my favorite sketch of his: http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/d0903ad93c), was cast as a Basterd and had no lines whatsoever. What a waste! Since the majority of Basterds were so underdeveloped maybe the whole movie should have just been about Shoshanna Dreyfus getting her revenge on Col Hans Landa and NOT Hitler or Goebbels.
Example 2: Brad Pitt carving a swastika into Cristoph Waltz’s forehead, saying “I think this is my masterpiece” and then rolling the credits. Ugh. This is not your masterpiece Tarantino. It’s a cheap shot against a long gone regime that can’t even see what you’ve done. Sure there are still Nazi groups running around the world and that’s why I would argue that the film could have taken place in our times with a bunch of hard ass Jews killing Neo Nazis (“Munich” style!) without distorting history.
So is “Inglorious Basterds” worth seeing? I guess it is…if you like well put together knee-jerk reactions that are 70 years too late. I’d say if you want silly violence with an applicable modern message go check out “Shoot Em Up”. Better yet go rent or re-watch Oliver Hirschbiegel’s “Downfall” instead. There you will find incredibly tense drama, brilliant acting and above all a fascinating, challenging and difficult perspective on Nazis that Tarantino’s film was sorely lacking.