Major spoilers discussed throughout the entire post.
Last Sunday, after a rave review from Zombie and mounting curiosity/excitement throughout the summer, I treated myself to an early morning screening of Quentin Tarantino's latest film, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. I was glad I went early, because even though it was before noon, there was not one seat to spare in the theater. It's no surprise BASTERDS opened at nearly 38 million.
For those who (somehow) don't know, BASTERDS is treated to Tarantino's signature over-the-top yet slightly humorous (at times) violence. Set in World War II, BASTERDS might just be the most acceptable setting for the gore that Tarantino rewards audiences with. The increasingly visible Brad Pitt (or am I the only one who feels like he's been popping up in movies a lot more in recent years) plays Aldo Raine, a U.S. Army lieutenant who assembles a squad for one reason and one reason only, "killin' Nazis." The hook? The squad is comprised entirely of Jewish soldiers, and to them, the war is personal; they're out for blood.
BASTERDS is one of Tarantino's most linear films, if not the most linear. Sure, he still jumps around a little here and there. While certain characters don't meet up until almost the last hour of the nearly three hour picture, everything seems to be happening chronologically, for the most part. However, my interest now isn't so much to review the film - you can find a ton of reviews online, many of which praise BASTERDS - but to analyze a key part of the ending.
To set the final scene, the orphaned Shosanna Dreyfus owns and operates a movie theater in France. The sole remaining member of her Jewish family, she has a deep rooted hatred for SS Colonel Hans Landa, the man responsible for her family's death. When she finds out that her theater has been chosen to host a premier of a new Nazi propaganda film, she concocts a plan. Burn the theater down with over 350 Nazis - including the top man himself, Hitler - trapped inside.
As the action built, I found myself starting to squirm in the seat. She had such a good plan. Top it off, the Basterds got involved. Overkill (literally). But how, I wondered, was Hitler going to escape sure death? I've been so programmed by historical fact that it never once crossed my mind that Hitler might... dare I say it... die onscreen from anything other than the suicide we know he actually went from. Then, it happened. Eli Roth - "The Bear Jew" stormed Hitler's balcony while the fuhrer was watching the movie and shot him. Dead. To pieces. Not only had Hitler been killed, but it was an unceremonious death. He stood up, got shot, and went down. It was only when The Bear Jew shoots his corpse that we even get a close up on Hitler.
Wow. Hitler killed on screen. I hadn't seen it coming. Then I got to thinking, has that happened before? I've seen some films based on his actual last days - like the amazing DOWNFALL - but I can't recall any movies where he's been blown away like that. I thought it was great. Yes, we got to see Hitler get his, but more than that, my expectations were completely shattered. I honestly wonder now if we can expect to see more movies do this - blatantly buck historical fact for a more gratifying ending. Part of me definitely hopes so. I was apparently way off on my expectations with BASTERDS' loyalty to certain historical facts (not that I thought the film was rooted in accuracy in any way). For the ending I didn't see coming, Tarantino gets my kudos (if he ever wants it, that is).