Alternative History is defined as “fiction that is based on history and that explores what might have happened if certain historical events, figures, etc., had been different.”
Quentin Tarantino isn’t the first filmmaker to show audiences an alternate history. Forrest Gump is probably the most popular example in which the film’s title character lived a fantastical life that had him involved with or drastically apart of some of the most iconic moments of the 20th century.
Although this concept wasn’t new, it had never been done the way Tarantino imagined it in 2009 with Inglorious Basterds. In his trademark stylish fashion, the master filmmaker provided a refreshingly brutal take on human history.
Inglourious Basterds is arguably Tarantino’s finest cinematic accomplishment and my personal favorite. Manifesting triumph instead of tragedy, Tarantino’s vision shined in a bloody and satisfyingly intense WWII fantasy.
Before this film, Quentin Tarantino had already established himself as an Academy Award-winning writer with an unquestionable trademark style. I believe Inglourious Basterds perfectly encompasses everything Tarantino does well in a beautifully shot, period-piece package.
The Traits of Tarantino
Although he does many things well, let’s take a look at what I believe is the three most significant and memorable traits of a Tarantino film.
Brutally Violent Dark Humor
What most critics and haters point out when analyzing a Tarantino film is its “controversial violence.” Whether it’s a cop getting his ear chopped off in Reservoir Dogs or a bounty hunter in The Hateful Eight literally puking out his bloody insides, a Tarantino film is never a comfortable experience.
It’s visceral. It’s impactful. Most importantly, he never has violence for violence sake. It always serves the greater story. Oddly enough, the best thing he does with these horrific scenes is finds the humor in them.
Normally a person getting shot in the face isn’t supposed to be funny but in the context of the scene in Pulp Fiction—it is hilarious! People getting burned alive? Shot to pieces? Is that supposed to be funny? Of course not, but when it’s Adolf Hitler and the German Nazi party in Inglourious Basterds? It’s hysterical, and to be frank, it is absolutely glorious (pun intended).
What helped win Pulp Fiction an Oscar, and is seen so brilliantly in Reservoir Dogs, the Kill Bill series, and The Hateful Eight was Tarantino’s ability to tie together many different story lines in a smooth, seamless viewing.
Pulp Fiction did this with a non-linear narrative whereas Inglourious Basterds was more straight forward; however, the eventual collision of seemingly separate characters still take place and is truly a joy to witness from start to finish.
Moments with Gripping Tension and Suspense
Although he may not be viewed as a horror director, or public opinion may be that his films aren’t necessarily thrillers, Tarantino’s most impressive talent is making a room, silent. Another aspect of his skill is creating seemingly slow conversation into extremely taut and intensely nerve-wracking scenes.
One can look at the iconic Mexican standoff in Reservoir Dogs or the opening interrogation in Inglourious Basterds. Both masterful scenes illustrate how undeniable and unnerving those sequences are made into a cinematic experience.
Playing with what the audience knows and what the characters don’t creates these beautiful yet, stressful moments. They all are brilliantly acted and patiently paced. Watching these scenes unfold is comparable to observing a legendary artist paint.
The Master’s Latest Piece
Inglourious Basterds plays like a black comedy fairy tale that admittedly leaves adults (me included) jumping for joy by the end of it. Of course, Adolf Hitler didn’t get assassinated by two American spies with machine guns. Nonetheless, it sure is fun and fulfilling to see that evil murderer get his due, even if it’s only apart of Tarantino’s twisted imagination.
Which is precisely why I am so excited for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
It was rumored numerous times that people have challenged Bruce Lee to a fight on set and to see Tarantino play with this idea is picture-perfect. Add on the backdrop of old-time Hollywood and the looming cult of the serial killer Charles Manson, one can only expect the calculated madness that awaits us in this new film.
Whether you’re a Tarantino-phile, a normal fan of cinema, or someone casual who just wants to see the newest Pitt and DiCaprio picture, I think we are all in for a horrifying but entertaining treat because once again, we get to see the master in action.