Quentin Tarantino has handed us an interesting philosophical question: Is gratuitous violence and bloodshed acceptable if the ones being killed are Nazis? Surely, as his argument goes, they’ve earned it. For the atrocities committed, the millions they slaughtered, we can let go of our pacifism temporarily. Look at it like a zombie movie: It’s not wrong to kill them if they’re already dead, right? It’s an interesting question. I for one have no real solid opinion on the issue. I’m reviewing a movie.
The first thing that caught me off guard with this film was the misleading nature of the previews. I was led to believe that Brad Pitt would be the bright shining star and all the action (of which I was expecting lots) would be glorious and bloody.
I was wrong.
Brad Pitt gets only about half of this film. And throughout his portion he’s sharing the screen with all of his Basterds. The rest of this film is largely the story of a young woman, a French Jew, named Shoshanna (Mélanie Laurent), sole survivor of a massacre on her family. The paths of these two characters never quite cross. Not on a personal level, anyway.
As I should have expected, the film isn’t a non-stop thrill ride with blood dripping off of every frame. It’s mostly dialogue. Groups of people, varying in size, sitting in a room talking. We all know (including the characters on screen) it’s going to end badly, but we’re just going to wait it out as long as we can. Tarantino’s attempts at building suspense aren’t a complete failure, but certainly not traditional. His usual snappy dialogue is somewhat lost in this film. Mostly because it’s about 75% in either German or French. And snappiness doesn’t translate into subtitles.
The language authenticity, however, does give the film a fair amount of credibility. I always cringe at movies like Valkyrie. Supposedly an all-German cast, played by either Tom Cruise or a bunch of British guys, and everyone’s speaking English. Kind of pathetic, if you ask me.
And while the film does deliver on blood and guts, it’s usually in short bursts. Also, seemingly, much more realistic. But the conclusion will either leave you cheering, or feeling a bit dirty on the inside. Probably both, like in my case.
My step-father once said, when asked if he would go see the movie Titanic, “Why? I already know how it ends.” Inglorious Basterds, however, does not feel the need to maintain such a close connection to the truth. World War II plays out in a completely different way in this film.
The last few seconds of the movie give us a shot of Brad Pitt’s face as he congratulates himself (for what I won’t say), commenting: “You know, I think this one is my masterpiece.” I couldn’t help but hear Tarantino saying these words through him. And he was wrong. Basterds is no Pulp Fiction. What ever will be? But it’s still a damn good movie.