As in "Reservoir Dogs", the cinematic violence is the entire point of the movie. There are few scenes I have ever seen that are more graphically disgusting and pointless than repeated images of people being scalped or having swastikas carved in their foreheads, or a man being beaten to death with a baseball bat. Once is shocking, twice is just plain editable, and three times is Tarantino.
There are redeeming features, to be sure - the cast is terrific. Christoph Waltz as SS Colonel Hans Landa plays a thoroughly abominable character with a blithe insouciance and self-involvement that seems to prove the old "banality of evil" argument about Nazism. Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine character is so gratingly ignorant-and-proud American that the over-the-top stereotyping rings truer than fiction. As usual, Quentin Tarantino gives female characters latitude, depth and plot leverage. Melanie Laurent beautifully enacts the classic French/Jewish resister Emmanuelle Mimieux (a sideways tribute to both the French soft-porn series and Yvette Mimieux, an actress in too many of Tarantino's favorite B-movies). Diane Kruger's Bridget von Hammersmark yields another well-played homage to cliche' - the turncoat with a heart of gold who meets a bitter fate.
The trademark Tarantino effect of pushing now-cliche'd stories to their laughable utmost fails utterly in "Inglorious Basterds", for the simple reason that the material it's based on is too bitter for parody. The themes are too large, the pain is still too real for the distance of fiction, and the stories keep getting told to the point of cliche' because the consequences were real and continue to this day. As much as we might daydream about what would have happened if the whole Third Reich could have been murdered in its infancy, the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to this fantasy is impossible.
For Quentin Tarantino, there may be no life off the screen. His movies seem always to be about other movies, lacking in any expression of deeper human meaning.
Spoiler - like "Reservoir Dogs", almost everybody, hero or villain, dies. At least there won't be a sequel.
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