That’s pretty much all I can say after reading Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay Inglorious Bastards. Grammatical and spelling errors aside, this is hands down one of the best scripts I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year.
I’m a fan of Tarantino’s work, but I am by no means what you would call a “fanboy.” I find some of his work – namely Reservoir Dogs and the Kill Bill saga – to be quite flawed. Then again, I am different from your typical QT fan in that I simply love Jackie Brown and Death Proof above all his other works.
But Inglorious Bastards is genius, and it’s genius not because of snappy dialogue or pop culture references or foot massages or whatever else you want to ascribe Tarantino’s success to. Inglorious is genius because it tells a damn good story. While I won’t reveal any spoilers, I will discuss characters and plot points, so if you don’t want to know more, then don’t read after the jump.
We’d all been told that the story centered around the Inglorious Bastards, a group of disgraced American soldiers recruited for a suicide mission during WW2. Well, that’s not exactly the case. Yes, there is a group of soldiers known as the Bastards (I refuse to succumb to Tarantino’s bastardized spelling of the word). Yes, they are carrying out perilous missions in Nazi-occupied France during WW2. But they’re not a disgraced wild bunch, fated to the firing squad. They’re more akin to an elite unit, one whose mission is not to take prisoners, but to fuck up any Nazis they encounter. And my friends, that’s something they do well. Under the leadership of Lt. Aldo Raine, aka Aldo the Apache, the Bastards kill Nazis and scalp them. Gross, yes. The ones who are fortunate enough to keep their wicked lives are left with a parting gift – a swastika carved into their forehead. Ouch.
So yes, there is a group of mean killing machines known as the Bastards in this script entitled Inglorious Bastards. But really, it’s not their story. They are peripheral to the main story and main character, a young French Jewish girl named Shoshanna. In the first part of the script, the Nazis have massacred Shoshanna’s entire family, yet she manages to miraculously escape. Years later, she is the proprietor of a Parisian movie theater which has been chosen to premiere Joseph Goebbles’ latest German propaganda war film and whose destruction is the latest mission for the Bastards. However, Shoshanna has some ideas of her own.
To say anymore about the plot would be a disservice to those who have yet to read the script or want to wait until the movie (hopefully) premieres next year. So all I will simply say is, the story crafted by Tarantino shows once again why he is a master at set-up and payoff. Seemingly innocuous events and actions have dire consequences in the end. Twists abound. Loyalties are compromised. You think you know what’s going to happen and then, oops! Tarantino pulls the rug right out from under you. Tarantino’s love for cinema is on full display here. Oh, and yes, women’s bare feet do figure into the script.
For the most part, the characters are solid. Shoshanna is a sympathetic character, but far from the damsel in distress. Once she sets out to enact revenge on the Nazis, you can be damn sure she’s going to carry her plan out to fruition. The main bad guy, Col. Hans Landa, known as The Jew Hunter, is an evil, cunning creation. Except for one scene, you never really see him use brawn. This dude is all brains, and believe me, he is truly a formidable adversary for everyone involved. And finally, I’ll mention Frederick Zoller, a decorated young German war hero who’s become something of a celebrity. Despite his being a Nazi, he seems like such a nice guy.
The ironic thing is, the Bastards for whom the script is named come off as sort of an afterthought. Lt. Aldo Raine is cool and all, but isn’t even the most charismatic of his squad. That distinction belongs to Donny Donowitz, aka The Bear Jew, who likes to smash in Nazi skulls with his trademark baseball bat. NY Mag suggested Adam Sandler for the part, and even though he may not be as physically imposing as one might want, I think he’d otherwise be perfect. Donny shines in back-to-back sequences – when he’s checking out bats in his hometown sporting good store, and when he visits a little old woman to have tea. The tea sequence is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, and I’d love to see Sandler pull that off.
I read on a message board that this plays like Jackie Brown meets Kill Bill with a touch of Cinema Paradiso, and I think that’d be an apt assessment of this film’s tone. It’s a WW2 flick with a revenge theme, but it’s also a small film and deals with its characters much more than you’d expect. It’s got moments of action and bullets and blood, but it’s also a very intimate film. Having said that, the finale is a hoot, a definite crowd pleaser that has you on the edge of your seat as you’re reading. It remains to be seen if the final film will end up as good as the script, but I believe it will. The storyline and characters are strong and engrossing. Tarantino’s sensibility is intact, but it’s not overwhelming. And as it stands right now, Inglorious Bastards is as an explosive, touching, and often funny saga of revenge. A pure joy to read.