Quentin Tarantino and the greatest World War II movies of all time
Some seven hours removed from the end of a midnight screening of Inglourious Basterds, I stand behind my initial euphoric tweet. I understand the thorny questions of taste and morality raised by the film, but I and the rest of last night's audience went to be entertained by QT's QKs, and we were richly rewarded with a ripping revenge fantasy that elicited incredulous laughter and earnest applause. We've had a rough couple of years, right? So let's all enjoy the guilt-free catharsis of killin' Nazis. Outside of critics' screenings and fanboy forums, that's how Tarantino's B-movie masterpiece will be received and, I'd argue, rightly so (They're nihilists, Donny!). Plus, everyone should be able to agree that Christoph Waltz, as the silkily evil Hans Landa, delivers a stupendously enjoyable performance. But what the hell do I know—I've watched Death Proof three times (so far).
That said, I don't think many viewers will rank Basterds high on the list of great World War II films. But the film did give Tarantino the opportunity to weigh in on just such a list crafted by my colleagues at Time Out London (they slotted Basterds at No. 40, btw It's 1978's The Inglorious Bastards). I lobbied the film crew over there via Twitter to rank The Great Escape at the top of the list, but when they told me it came in at No. 29, my head knew they were right even as my heart rebelled. Plus, they call it "Maybe the most flat-out enjoyable WWII film of them all," so who cares what number they assigned to it?
A sampling of QT's commentary:
"What originally got me to sit down and write Inglourious Basterds were all those bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission movies made in the late ’60s and early ’70s, like Where Eagles Dare, The Devil’s Brigade and The Dirty Dozen. I think one of the things that’s just amazing about The Dirty Dozen, and why I don’t think it could ever be duplicated today, is the fact that you could never find eight actors like that now. It was just a different breed of man. Robert Aldrich threw a rock in a tree and Jim Brown fell out, Charles Bronson fell out, John Cassavetes fell out, and Telly Savalas… and that’s without even mentioning Lee Marvin. There aren’t guys like Charles Bronson and Jim Brown running around any more."
Which is pretty much the way I feel about The Great Escape as well. To neatly tie all this up in a bow, let's call Inglourious Basterds exactly what it is: great escapism.