Review: 'Inglourious Basterds'
Tarantino turns history on its head in this World War II fantasy where the Jews come out on top.
Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" – his misspellings, not mine – is a self-described fairy tale. Being that this is a Tarantino film, you can be sure it's closer to one of Grimm's more ghastly escapades than to "Sleeping Beauty." In this World War II fantasy, top Nazis get obliterated by Jewish avengers.Skip to next paragraph
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The film is divided into five chapters, each given its own heading. The first chapter, which is shot in the slow-burn, panoramic style of a spaghetti western, is titled "Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France." Subsequent chapters likewise have the look and feel of different moviemaking genres, although 1960s "Dirty Dozen"-ish stylistics predominate.
What does this filmic fandango add up to? Tarantino, who looks at life through a viewfinder, sees film as the ultimate righter of wrongs. Through the magic of movies he overturns the Holocaust. Who needs bummers like "Schindler's List" and "The Diary of Anne Frank," or even the historically based "Defiance," which featured Jews killing Nazis but was mucked up by all those pesky debates about morality? In a recent interview in The Atlantic, Tarantino says, "Holocaust movies are always having Jews as victims.... We've seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let's see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let's not have everything build up to a big misery, let's actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation."
His "fun" here involves a band of Jewish American revengers, headed up by Brad Pitt's perpetually chin-jutting, non-Jewish Lt. Aldo Raine, who specialize in scalping Nazis and carving swastikas into their foreheads. The most intimidating of the Basterds is a baseball-bat-wielding hulk known as "Bear Jew" (played by Eli Roth, the sicko-horror film director).
A parallel story line has Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), who alone escaped the massacre of her family in the opening chapter, plotting her payback three years later as the owner, under an assumed identity, of a movie theater in occupied Paris. It seems the Nazi high command wants her theater to première a new German movie, "A Nation's Pride," starring war hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a sort of Teutonic Audie Murphy who is smitten by Shosanna. Since the nitrate film housed in the theater is highly flammable, she sees a way to turn the event into a caldron of retribution.