The UNpopular Opinion: Inglourious Basterds

Written by: Aaron the H

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

“You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.”         – Lt. Rayne

Before I start hurling criticisms like ninja stars at the film you loyal JoBlo fans selected as this year’s finest…allow me to make one thing brutally clear: I do NOT believe INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is a bad film. In fact, it’s better than probably 75% of what gets released these days. Sadly, that doesn’t say much. I do however believe that INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is not a very GOOD film (not even QT’s 3rd best), and it certainly, definitely, whole-heartedly, undeniably, without a doubt is not the film it could have been. This is coming from a die-hard Tarantino fan. A man who covets the revenge genre above any other. A man whose last name, “Horwitz,” should tell you straight away what religious background I come from. So let’s not pretend I have no merit here!

Whew, OK. Calm down. Deep breath. Lets begin.

The first sign of trouble in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS comes in the first scene, one that consists mostly of two men talking at a table and yet somehow, stretches an incredible 19 minutes long. I understand QT’s predisposition for dialogue, and lets face it- he may be the best in the business, but to put this in perspective, your average sitcom runs only 21 minutes. Domino’s used to deliver pizzas in less time. But what the scene really introduces is something far more troubling; our eagerly anticipated Basterds, the ones that soak up nearly ALL of the trailer’s runtime, the ones who appear on all the film’s posters, taglines, loglines, you name it– these men are not the main characters in this film. What the F, man?!

A scene from Quentin Tarantino’s short film, “The Discussion.”

Anyone who read the script beforehand probably knew this was coming. For all us eager fans blood-thirsty for a hardcore, humorous, wildly entertaining, no-holds-barred cinematic payback flick led by Brad Pitt and helmed by the man who brought us one of the most thrilling AND most intelligent of the genre in Kill Bill (yes its possible for action to be intelligent), we were about to be devilishly deceived. Now I know what you’re going to say: “Don’t judge a film by its misleading marketing”. But that’s not what I’m doing. See for once, the marketing had it right. They knew what they were promoting; and that’s the film this SHOULD have been. The film this very easily COULD have been.  And probably the film this WOULD have been, had Tarantino not gotten the urge to divulge his feelings about King Kong, G. W. Pabst, which language we should speak in and a handful of other things that have no place being in a story we thought was about an [inexplicably] badass gang of Jewish Nazi-hunters wreaking havok on the Third Reich.

If you’re gonna take the name, may as well take [some semblance of] the plot.

Instead the film gives equal if not greater screen time to a very hot chick named Shoshanna and a very well-spoken Nazi Colonel named Landa (played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz, no complaints there). While these characters get huge chunks of runtime for character development, the Basterds get almost none– a few of them never even speak. The one who does speak the most (other than Pitt) is Eli Roth as “The Bear Jew”, a casting choice that, lets face it, never woulda happened had QT and him not been BFFs. Roth is a talented director and all, but maybe he should stay behind the camera. Every time he opens his mouth in this film, the Bear Jew becomes about as intimidating as Winnie the Pooh.

Now, onto Shoshanna before I discuss the waste of screentime that is Frederik Zoller. This woman undoubtedly is the lead in this film, can we agree? And yet, her revenge ends up being performed on every Nazi EXCEPT the man we spent the first 19 minutes setting her up to takedown. Combine her with another of the film’s unadvertised heavies, the equally hot Diane Kruger as a German film star (who cares) and you could make a decent case that the name of this film could easily have been changed to Inglourious Bitches. Unlike Shoshanna, the motivations behind Kruger’s act of treason are blurry, but who really cares, we just wanna watch them play card games in a bar all night, right? Ugh.

Zoller I don’t even wanna discuss, but I will. What is the purpose of having this man in this film? Of giving him a love story? To put a human face on the Nazis? Really QT? You’re breakin’ my heart. Nazis = brutal and sadistic. Jews = brutal by self-defense. That’s what I want to see here, cuz lets face it, you’re not making the next Schindler’s List (those little concentration camp thingies aren’t even mentioned here), so why bother blurring the lines between heroes and villains? In fact, it’s the Nazis who come off more honorable most times while the Jews come off as the savages (baseball bat scene, much?). Which side are we supposed to root for?

Notice which characters QT chooses to sit next to…

What made the Basterds’ lack of screentime even worse is that when they were on camera (especially Pitt and Schweiger) they were absolutely phenomenal. So why is Schweiger as the awesome Hugo Stiglitz so criminally underused when that toad-faced Goebbels guy gets so much screentime? QT, whose side are you on!? I had doubts about Pitt in this role going in, but sweet Jesus, he really stole the show. Give me more.

Now, with all that said…I get it. Some of those incredibly long scenes were masterful exercises in building tension and suspense. SOME. And yet, it must be asked…were they really necessary? Couldn’t a 19 minute scene be cut down to, I don’t know, a brisk 16 minutes so we could have at least 3 more glorious minutes of action (or at least backstory/character development)? QT, I love ya baby, and no matter what you do from here on out, I always will. But there is a time and place for you to wax poetic on your knowledge and passion for film history and dessert food etiquette, and during a multi-milion dollar WWII revenge saga is NOT that time or place ( however, is).

And with that, I say “Au reviour”.


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