Quentin Tarantino did not invent movies, but it sure seems like movies were invented for him.
“Inglourious Basterds” is quite possibly his finest film. It lacks the slapstick violence of “Kill Bill” and the dialogue is missing his trademark multitudes of pop culture references (the downside to a period piece). But the dialogue is snappy, the action is incredibly well choreographed, and the story is pure Jewish fantasy. Make no mistake, these are strong, powerful Jews. Eli Roth’s character is nicknamed “the Bear Jew” and carries around a baseball bat used for beating Nazis to death, “the closest thing we get to going to the movies,” according to Pitt’s Aldo Rain. After years of movies like “Schindler’s List,” “Life is Beautiful,” and “The Diary of Anne Frank,” here is a Holocaust movie that portrays strong Jews fighting back against the Nazis. The Torah commands that if somebody rises up to kill you, you should kill him first. “Inglourious Basterds” lives by this principle. Yes, it’s a total work of fiction, but it taps into something in the Jewish soul and you feel proud of what these Jews are doing to fight back against the Nazis.
This is not to say that Jews did not resist during the Holocaust. We cannot forget the brave heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. And last year’s “Defiance” also highlighted strong Jews who resisted. While “Defiance” certainly had the pride factor, it brought with it sadness from knowing you are watching the reenactment of actual events. “Inglourious Basterds,” by virtue of its basis in an alternate reality, is pure good-guys-vs-bad-guys fun.
There are, of course, a few flaws in the movie. I would have liked some more background on the basterds – how they were recruited, their background, and more about their motivations (although the big motivation for them obviously is revenge, hence Aldo picking Jewish soldiers). Another missing piece I can reveal without really spoiling anything is how Shosanna came to own the movie theater in Paris.
So, essentially what is missing is background, although other pieces of background are beautifully illustrated in flashbacks, similar in style to “Reservoir Dogs.”
If you want a full review of Tarantino’s brilliance, go read Ebert’s review (linked in the previous post). I will definitely see this one again and I suggest you go, too. Fair warning though, there is some very graphic violence. (Did you expect anything less from Tarantino?)