Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Inglourious Basterds


Quentin Tarantino, from the times I’ve seen him on talk shows, seems to be the consummate asshole. He’s an asshole who knows how to make movies, though, and this is another amazing entry in his very small oeuvre. I must commend him for having made one of the few action-oriented films I’ve seen lately where the director has the confidence to let his camera linger, with no distracting moves, to let the dynamics of his dialogue and the actors delivering it sell the scene instead of using flash cutting and ominous music. His movies are famous for never going where you expect them to go, and with one terrible exception (which I will get to very soon), this one delivers right from the first sequence, where the tension builds to amazing levels and then something happens that I did not expect at all. And it continues doing that, right through to the satisfying final scene.
And I guess I must at this point issue a half-hearted spoiler warning. It’s half-hearted because I’d really like you to read it, even if you haven’t seen the movie, because I want to warn you about how bad, how really awful this one scene is, so you’ll be ready for it. So:
A Jewish girl is the projectionist at a little film festival she has arranged to incinerate Hitler, Göring, Goebbels, and Himmler all in one glorious auto de fé. A Nazi sniper who has been pursuing her barges his way into the room and seems prepared to rape her. She gets the drop on him and shoots him twice in the back. Then, she realizes he is still alive and appears to take pity on him, rolls him over … and he shoots her.
I can’t even count the number of ways this scene is … stupid, ludicrous, stunningly bad, clichéd … wrong, wrong WRONG!!! For one thing, the Nazis murdered this girl’s family in the opening scene of the movie. The sniper is famous for killing 300 Americans in one battle. And she feels sympathy??? WRONG!!! Up to this moment she had not shown the slightest trace of stupidity, and then she does this monumentally stupid thing. WRONG, Mr. Tarantino. Upon realizing he was still alive, the girl you wrote would have fired all the bullets in her gun but one into the man’s back, saving the last round for a cautious shot to the brain, which is guaranteed to kill even a Nazi. And it’s just plain beneath you, Quentin. It’s a scene that belongs in a movie by an incompetent asshole like Michael Bay. The cheap surprise! Jesus, man, the girl was a cinema buff, just like you! She would know a gotcha! moment as well as the rest of us do. These things are Cinema 101, even in 1944 Paris. Don’t split up in the spooky house. Don’t walk through a door backward. Don’t approach that almost-dead Nazi until he has some serious lead in his brain pan.
She would know these things! She would not have an ounce of sympathy for this murdering degenerate! She wouldn’t hesitate a nanosecond to perforate, mangle, and dismember him! Shame on you, QT, for including this scene from another—bad—movie in this otherwise fine film. It almost destroyed the whole movie for me. Just almost, thankfully.
Other notable impressions: Much has been written about Christoph Waltz as colonel Hans Landa, the urbane SS killer. He’s being compared to Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. It’s all true. This is the creepiest character in a long time. And like Lee said, there’s not too much Brad Pitt.