Inglourious Basterds: A Recovery Review

by The Discovering Alcoholic on August 22, 2009

Never being a really big fan of his work, Quentin Tarantino hasn’t impressed me since the 90’s with his admittedly engaging Pulp Fiction. I was particularly disappointed with the much ballyhooed at the time Kill Bill(s) that might as well have been a big budget film school project crammed together at the last moment after a semester of goofing off. Don’t let the spelling throw you though, his Inglourious Basterds was neither casually written nor directed. Tarantino reportedly spent more than a decade writing the script and the end result is a well crafted movie.

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As one would expect with Tarantino there is no lack of graphic violence and plenty of strong, unique roles, but the time he spent on the script is evident by the fact that unlike his other works the story is actually stronger than the individual characters. Set in WWII occupied France, a group of Jewish-American commandos have been loosed to wreak havoc among the Germans and do so through brutal tactics that include scalping their victims. It gets more than just a little bit gruesome, but does not overpower the movie.

Yes, this is a recovery review so I will go ahead and slip my point in before going on. The movie is set in a historic period when a whole race of people were dehumanized and then slaughtered, as in all wars soldiers on both sides were guilty of what in peace time would be considered atrocities, and those far away from the battle lines rooted in earnest for the most painful destruction of the enemy. History has proven that humans can become inured to the most horrid conditions and actions, especially if conditions erode slowly but progressively.

Addiction works in a similar manner for those afflicted and even society in general. Those caught up in a vicious cycle of substance abuse over time become acclimated to the inevitable degradation of their lives. Employed then unemployed, solvent then broke, supported then alone, free then incarcerated, friend then felon, and before long nothing seems to embarrassing, risky, or immoral as long as it is a means to and end… and a bottle. Society also falls prey, often looking upon those that have lost their homes and families to addiction as something less than human, and that the constant stream of innocent and not-so victims of alcohol and drug related crime and violence are somehow “acceptable losses”.

Back to the movie… and the casual, gleefully gratuitous violence that our Jewish raiders inflict upon the Nazi’s for their role or at least tacit support of the same on an even grander scale. Brad Pitt plays the commanding officer of the commandos, a Bowie knife wielding hillbilly that somehow remains lovable even after repeatedly carving a swastika into the forehead of the few prisoners they actually allow to live. The previously unknown Christoph Waltz brilliantly plays the Nazi “Jew Hunter” who slaughters the family of a young Jewish girl played by Mélanie Laurent who later exacts her own brand of cinematic justice. The storylines of all three converge in a vengeance filled finale that thankfully disregards history for entertainment purposes. Entertainment. That is why this movie gets two thumbs up. I am sure there will be those that suck the fun out of this film by interpreting Inglourious Basterds as a tale of moral equivalencies and consequentialism (but a recovery review, well that’s just awesome!). Certainly even rooting for the “good” guys made me feel a little dirty- but that just made it more exciting!

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