Like any good writer, I’ll start with a disclaimer. I watched this movie in the theater. I was tired and the audience certainly had a negative influence on my viewing experience. Perhaps on a different day, alone in a living room, I would think differently. Regardless, the review as it stands:
Inglorious Bastards is a signature Tarantino film: a postmodern cluster-fuck from a man-child educated chiefly through media, and currently snorting lots of coke. I’m not saying this is always a recipe for bad movies. For example, in the Kill Bill movies Tarantino mixes comic book violence and dialogue with anime and kung fu fighting; he removes all depth and general suspense from the plot, meanwhile moving the movies along with his intoxication for creating whatever he desires to see on film, his soundtracks at the forefront. What we get are two aesthetic films, the purpose of which is to feed our eyes candy. And it works, even when the screen is covered in blood.
Inglorious Bastards tries to use the same formula for box office success that made Kill Bill work, and while the Bastards are currently pulling in big bucks, I think Tarantino is guilty of using old tools on a new problem. The problem is compounded because audiences are too drunk on Tarantino’s aura, his cult-credit turned into blockbuster magic, to see he’s failed.
How he failed: Tarantino wanted to swoop down and save Hollywood by making a Holocaust movie where Jews weren’t the victims, but rather instruments of terror, bringing down justice on evil Nazis. It’s a fantasy movie about history, using old cowboy and Indian movies as a guide, only with the addition of Pulp Fiction like dialogue, violence, and that comic book flavor Quinton has come to be known for. Historical people are involved, and some historical events are touched on, but everything is subject to Tarantino’s fantastic rewriting. I’m not arguing that all movies need to be completely accurate when they portray historical events, but in this film Tarantino does a disservice to the events of the Holocaust. In one scene a bastard, the ‘Jew-bear,’ graphically beats a Nazi to death with a baseball bat while the other bastards clap and cheer. Then another bastard nonchalantly scalps the dead Germans while everyone banters and jokes. The scene is done in such a way that the audience is led to cheer and laugh along with the bastards, the distributors of hilarious, splendidly-violent, justice.
From Tarantino’s portrayal of Hitler as a spoiled child who isn’t getting his way, hosts of Nazis who are absolutely evil and nothing else, Jews who delight in torturing and killing Nazis without any suggestion at irony, and an audience that is successfully led to delight in what they see, proves only how much we Americans have in common with Nazi Germany: In the quest for a scapegoat to blame for terrible events we demonize people and acts without looking in the mirror, because we must see what we want to see.
Aside from Tarantino’s impertinent handling of a sensitive piece of history, Inglorious Bastards still manages some impressive acting by Christoph Waltz and a decent showing by Brad Pitt that was usually entertaining, though sometimes unbelievable. There are moments of witty dialogue that are sure to make you laugh or smile, even if you hate the rest of the film. And as always with Quentin’s movies, the music delivers and the cinematography is gripping.
Tarantino’s other sin—he got carried away; The film was too long. At least half an hour needed to be cut from the movie.
Final Chapter: The inglorious conclusion. Three cheers for the talented Tarantino, really. But Quentin, please leave history to other directors, and keep your desire to watch bloody vengeance unfold to movies that handle subjects without the burden of so much weight.