Self 1: Hey, self, what are you doing this afternoon?
Self 2: Nothing much. Why, did you have something planned?
1: Well, since everyone saw Inglourious Basterds this weekend, I figured we ought to.
2: All right, let’s grab some discount tickets and go.
1: Cool. Do we need one or two tickets?
2: Just one, but we’re awesome enough to count as three.
1: Damn right.
And we so found myself at the theater, waiting for Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic presentation to begin. After one interesting preview (Thanks in advance, Mr. Cameron, for Avatar.) and several terrible ones (Gamer and Halloween 2, I’m looking at you), the film started.
From the opening musical selection to the giant, block lettering of the main title, Inglourious Basterds is immediately recognizable as a Tarantino film. It doesn’t disappoint, either…as a Tarantino film. It presents itself in a series of chapters, just as in Kill Bill, each chapter being a distinct story segment. I enjoy the convention; it creates in me the sense that I am not watching a movie, but rather a serialized drama, or even reading a book. It also breaks up the movie’s 152 minute runtime into digestible chunks.
What I loved about this movie was the dialoge and its ability to create tension. The opening scene between Hans Landa, a Nazi SS officer, and a french dairy farmer had me mentally wringing my hands in nervous anticipation of the scene’s climax. A later conversation between Col. Landa and the owner of a local cinema elicited gasps from the moviegoer next to me – strudel has never seemed so sinister.
There’s also a comedic underscoring to Basterds. Lt Aldo “Apache” Raines (Brad Pitt) is good ol’ boy from Tennessee with a little Injun blood in him. His introduction to the audience is via his introduction to the team of Jewish soldiers who comprise said basterds, and it is a memorable introduction indeed. Lt. Raines is loud, charismatic, inspiring, and charming after a certain fashion. His complete lack of subtlety and tact allow for some downright comical interactions with Nazi soldiers. Never out of place, the humor is necessary. I don’t want to call it comic relief, but it functions as such, because Inglourious Basterds is an incredibly violent film.
I can’t imagine it any other way. After all, this is Quentin Tarantino directing. But in scene after graphic scene, I just became repulsed by it. This wasn’t an artistic, pop-culture homage to Hong Kong cinema like Kill Bill. This just felt like Tarantino was exploring the dark side of man in a wartime setting and the pleasure he derives from acting out his revenge on his enemies. It was a power trip.
This violence is then justified by motivating it by racial revenge. It’s the Jews vs the Nazis, so it must be OK, right? We can laugh at a scene of a German officer being viciously beaten to death by a Jewish soldier, right? Although the majority of the people in the theater were laughing, I wasn’t. I was pretty sickened by the scene, and then by the laughter around me. I really hope that it was, at best, the kind of laughter unconsciously elicited by extremely awkward situations. The Basterds on screen enjoyed killing Nazis, and the bastards watching the screen enjoyed the killing, too.
Quentin Tarantino knows subtlety and blunt force trauma, and he uses both to great effect in this movie. It is a good movie, and I do recommend it! (But I do so with a caveat: Let the viewer be aware.) I just found the intrigue far more palatable than the gore, and to that effect I give this movie 3 out of 5 Babbles.