Why “Inglorious Bastards” Is Inglorious To The End

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Upon its release in 2009, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards was met with critical acclaim and box office boom. The film–which tells the story of two plots to assassinate Hitler, one made by a young French Jewish cinema proprietor, the other by a team of Jewish-American soldiers—was nominated for numerous awards, and made an Oscar winner and international star out of Austrian actor Christoph Waltz.

At the time of its release, my parents and I were just getting settled in our new home after spending five years in Germany. I had loved every minute of my time overseas, and I was eager to share my experiences with anyone who would listen. Unfortunately, these dreams never came to fruition. Instead of showing interest, or even curiosity, at the fact that I grew up in another country and spoke another language, other children mocked and harassed me–particularly of the accent that I’d acquired over the years. They called me horrible names like Nazi and Jew-Killer, and claimed that the Holocaust was my fault. Just a few problems with that theory; one, I’m about seventy years too young to have been there; two, I’m not even German: and three, I have a grandfather and a great uncle who both fought for the Allies.  Of course, when I pointed these facts out to my tormentors, it did nothing to stop them. If anything, it just made things worse.

My anguish reached an all time high when Inglorious Bastards hit the theaters. Now, whenever children called me Nazi, they did it with Brad Pitt’s absurdly strong Southern accent, and they threatened to call upon Donny “The Bear Jew” Donnowitz to “take his big bat” and “beat my ass to death with it.” Needless to say, I had no desire to see the movie after that. In fact, I promised myself right then and there that I would never watch it.

Fast forward four years–I’m eighteen, slightly more mature, and have decided to break my own oath. I figure now I’m old enough to get through the film without getting too upset. I tell myself that, even if I don’t like it, at least now I can use details from the picture to support my dislike.

Well, I’ve seen Inglorious Bastards, and what I have to say about the movie is this. It’s certainly not the worst thing to have ever hit the big screen. As an action film, it’s entertaining and reasonably well acted. It’s also shot primarily in French and German–a fact that I, as a die-hard fan of foreign-language films, was pleased to discover. Better yet is the fact that Daniel Brühl, one of my favorite actors from my years in Germany, is featured in it.

Beyond these small positive features, however, the film still flops. The first issue I had with this film is that it is gratuitously violent. Now, I bet some of you are thinking, “Well, it’s a war movie. What do you expect?” But you see, unlike other violent war films, like Glory and Saving Private Ryan, this violence has no greater purpose. Inglorious Bastards is violent simply for the sake of being violent. Within this nearly three hour picture, several people are scalped, some have swastikas carved on their foreheads, one gentleman gets his brains bashed out, and another gets his balls shot off at point blank. Unless you have a strong stomach, I doubt you can take the carnage that unfolds before the camera.

The second thing I didn’t like about this picture was that, for a movie, which claims to be a Jew-empowering revenge fantasy, it is incredibly lacking in Jewish content. Other Holocaust and World War 2 films include at least a minimal exploration of the beautiful religion that was persecuted by the Nazis, but not this one. You’ll find no recitations in Hebrew, references to the Talmud, or descriptions of traditions observed on the High Holidays in this picture. Instead, the film’s Jewish characters–many of who are portrayed by Christian actors–are shown as sadistic psychopaths dealing out horrendous punishments to their German prisoners, many of who don’t even express anti-Semitic views. The one positive aspect of this lack of attention to Jewish culture is the fact that Jewish stereotypes and racial epithets are largely avoided.

The third issue I had with the movie is that the plot is too absurd to take seriously. A truly great film is one that is able to make a fictional world seem real, so, Inglorious Bastards is anything but a great film. It contradicts history in so many ways, and is populated by so many two dimensional characters that, eventually, you’re forced to throw up your hands and say “What the hell?”

Let me give you an example. The movie revolves around a group of Jewish-American soldiers who have been given orders to collect 100 Nazi scalps each. Their leader, Lieutenant Aldo Reine (Brad Pitt) claims that all Germans are “the foot-soldiers of a Jew-hating, masse-murdering maniac who need to be destroyed.” First of all, that statement just isn’t true. Many Germans only joined the Nazi Party because they had no choice, and many more did everything in their power to undermine Hitler’s anti-Semitic regime. If you don’t believe me, look up the heroic actions of such Germans as Oskar Schindler, Wilm Hosenfeld, Claus Von Stauffenberg and Heinz Drossel. Secondly, this film is set in 1943, two whole years before any of the Allied Powers knew about the Death Camps, so how exactly would Reine know that Hitler was “mass-murdering?” Besides, all historical evidence indicates that, even if the Allies had known about the Fuehrer’s “final solution,” they probably wouldn’t have taken any steps to stop it. Many people in Britain, France, Russia and the United States shared the Nazi’s anti-Semitic views. In the years before the war, they largely ignored the stories of destruction and pogrom that reached them. A perfect example of their indifference to the plight of the Jews is the 1939 voyage of the Saint Louis, where President Roosevelt denied a German ship filled with Jewish refugees entrance to the United States. In the real world, the Allies didn’t care enough about the well being of the Jews to organize an elite unit of soldiers to avenge them.

Another example of the film’s lack of attention to reality is the ease with which the protagonists bring down the entire German government. They do this by having all the Nazi high command gather in a movie theater in Paris to watch a propaganda film, and then burn them to a crisp and riddle them with machine-gun fire. First of all, never, and I mean never, would every high-ranking member of the German government, Military, Gestapo, SS, and Ministry of Propaganda decide to meet at one place and one time. Anyone with common sense can see that coming together in a big group and having little to no security is just plain stupid. Say what you like about the Nazis, but they definitely weren’t THAT stupid. Also, why would these Bigwigs go all the way to France just to watch a movie? If ever all these higher-ups were to meet in one place (which they never would) a far more likely place would be Berlin. Another thing–why would the film’s protagonists decide to kill off EVERY member of the German government? In the movie, they make it out as though doing this will bring about an immediate end to the war. I hate to disappoint any audience member who might have believed this but, in the real world, doing that would have had the exact opposite effect. When we toppled Saddam Hussein in the early 2000s, we also dissolved the Ba’ath Party and the pre-existing Iraqi government. This created a power vacuum and generated extreme instability in the region. If, as the film portrays it, the entire Nazi government had been executed in one fell swoop, there would have been no one left to order the remaining German troops to surrender, no one left to negotiate with the Allies, and no one left to discontinue the Concentration camps. This just goes to show you that, despite everything that movies like this try to tell you, violence really isn’t the answer. Anyway, it is instances like this, instances in which there is a blatant lack of attention to reality in the film, that seriously decreased my enjoyment of it.

The fourth and final reason that this film failed in my opinion is the fact that it lacks any likable characters. I can only enjoy a movie where there are people in it that are relatable, and Inglorious Bastards lacks any such people. In Inglorious Bastards, the “good-guys” are redneck American soldiers who scalp people for fun, and the “bad-guys” are Nazis. Who am I supposed to side with? In fact, the only remotely likable character in the entire picture is a German Sergeant named Wilhelm, and he’s only featured in one scene where, you guessed it, he gets killed. I don’t know about you, but I can’t endure an ultra-violent, three-hour war movie without having at least one character to sympathize with.

On average I would give this movie a rating of 5 out of 10. It’s action-packed and well acted, but it’s also emotionally flat and too unrealistic to take seriously. Unless you’ve got a thing for historically inaccurate war flicks that feature 70s style soundtracks, I wouldn’t recommend it. But, hey, that’s just me. If you actually enjoyed the film, and would like to engage me in a debate, by all means, do so. All right! That’s’ all for today. See you!

Nathan Liu

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4 thoughts on “Why “Inglorious Bastards” Is Inglorious To The End

  1. Nathan-
    I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary on Inglorious Bastards, but I have to say I disagree with many of your points. Perhaps I have an inflated opinion of the movie because it was R-rated movie I saw. But where you see a failed historical movie, I see an almost whimsical spoof of 1930s and 40s propaganda film. It’s impossible to compare Saving Private Ryan, which both begins and ends with the American flag rippling in the wind, with a movie that includes cutaways to an old-timey explanation of how nitrogen based film is flammable and to the Nazi film director shtuping (if I may use a Yiddish term) his assistant. In addition, while Tom Hanks in SPR is a Jesus-like figure, Brad Pitt is kind of a boob. Perhaps one of the funniest scenes in the film (and there are quite a few of them, another example of how it is not meant to be too serious) is when Pitt’s character makes a fool of himself by butchering a few words of Italian with a very heavy American accent. While the film has the makings of propaganda in the 1940s, Brad Pitt’s character is no hero, and it’s by sheer luck, not American perfectionism, that dooms the Nazis. Lastly, I thought that your comment about characters in Bastards being flat and unlikeable was a bit of a low blow. What about the relationship between Melanie (formerly Shoshanna) and Frederick Zoller? As a member of the audience (and a Jew), I found myself rooting on Zoller in his quest to gain the affection of Melanie, despite his being a Nazi, which contradicts your complaint that the movie portrays all Nazis as evil. So in the end, I think your arguments that Americans view all Germans as evil is very valid (as a Jew I have great respect for the way Germany has come to terms with its history in the post-Holocaust years), but I think Quentin Tarantino attempts to highlight this stereotype by poking fun at the war-time propaganda.
    Thanks for your review!

    • Hey Daniel,
      First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read my review. This is the first time that I’ve put any of my writing online, so I was a little nervous. I can see now what you mean about the film not being meant to be taken seriously. I also agree that the relationship between Frederick and Shoshanna is interesting, and that I was also rooting for Zolar. Their fictional relationship mirrors, in many ways, the real-life relationship between Heinz Drossel, a German enlisted man who saved many Jews from the Holocaust, and the woman who eventually became his wife. Perhaps I should amend what I said about Inglorious Bastards’ characters. It’s not that there are no likable characters in the movie, it’s just that all the likable ones–Frederick, Shoshanna, Marcel, Hicox and Wilhelm–die, and the unlikable characters–Reine and Landa–survive. On a side note, I mentioned in my review that I was happy to see one of my favorite German actors, Daniel Bruhl, in the picture. Guess who he played. Ah, I knew I couldn’t fool you. That’s right! He played Zolar! If you liked his performance, then be sure to check him out in such great films as John Rabe, 2 Days in Paris, and Goodbye Lenin. Thanks again for the commentary, and be sure to read and share my other reviews.

  2. Nathan-
    Great insight. I’ve only seen parts of the movie, but I think you sum it up pretty well. Though I do think the violence serves a purpose. Seeing that I’m not the director, I can’t say this for sure. But in my opinion, its continual presence is meant to symbolize the unnecessary and redundant nature of grotesqueness in war. The over-exaggeration is what sets the movie apart from typical semi-horrifying war films and puts it into a truly insane category of its own. Thank you for the review.

  3. Hey Nathan.
    Very deep review here. I haven’t seen Inglorious Bastards, but your notes give me a great idea of its pros and cons. From watching trailers and snippets, I could tell from first glance that the movie was written purely as a more of an action flick than historical-fiction action-drama. The only thing I can confirm it being historical in is that it was set in Nazi Germany. You picked out great reasons on why it wasn’t a film you like from its lack of providing the viewer with emotion for characters, and its historical inaccuracies.
    Great critiquing.
    Keep it up!
    (Hail Snowtrotter)

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