This bloodbath comedy reinvents the end of the Third Reich in a slapstick assassination of the top Nazis in a little cinematic holocaust planned and perpetrated by American and French Jews. The trademark Tarantino gore is splashed in abundance and the dextrous wit of the multilingual screenplay is a joy to the ears. Christoph Waltz plays an exuberantly garrulous "Jew hunter" SS colonel in a virtuoso performance that holds the plot together with dazzling panache. Brad Pitt by contrast looks out of place as a drawling hillbilly US lieutenant leading an inglorious pack of Jewish scalp-hunters. Still, with Tarantino chapter breaks and applied graphics to put a modern gloss on what could easily have sunk into another fictional war story, the production sings along quite effectively.
What worried me at the outset and still worries me now two viewings later is that the moral standpoint the movie as a whole represents is both well worn in countless previous movies and philosophically inadequate to the loathsomeness of the evil it reflects. The Nazis were beastly to the Jews, so let a bunch of Jews be equally beastly to the Nazis, and let them kill Hitler too, to end the war nine months earlier and save the world, as it were. This is fine as a first introduction to the issues for innocent youngsters, if there are any left, who have not yet gone deeper. But brutality was not the unique horror of the Nazi phenomenon, and ending the horror show nine months earlier would have saved far more Germans, who had collectively voted to stage the spectacle in the first place, than Jews, who had suffered their worst attrition already by then. Hypotheticals are anyway moot in history.
No, the unique horror of the Nazi phenomenon was its deep intellectual roots in a culture that saw history in racist terms and was prepared to suffer mightily to showcase its view in historical fact. Some six million Germans were killed in the war, in circumstances as hideous as those in which six million Jews also died, and the Germans knew from 1943 at the latest that their furious revolt against the rest of the world was doomed to spectacularly bloody failure. But they did it anyway, in an operatic celebration of the martial arts armed with the latest high-tech weapons that may well stand as unparalleled in history since the astonishing career of Alexander the Great in antiquity. That the feat left the stench of genocide in its wake is troubling, and nothing in Tarantino's movie helps us to digest or reprocess that obstinate fact of history.
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