Saw this Friday and it’s good. Sometimes funny, sometimes suspenseful, and intermittently horrifying — like the Tarantino of yore. It’s a gutsy move to make such extensive use of foreign language dialogue in several different languages (a bit reminiscent of La Grande Illusion in this respect) rather than Hollywood’s more conventional “Nazis speaking to each other in German-accented English.” The movie also does a great job of deploying the historical setting to throw some plot curveballs at the audience.
But aesthetic qualities aside it’s also an interesting example of how Jews and the Holocaust have moved closer and closer to the American cultural narrative of World War II. The war itself is sort of the foundational myth of America’s drive for worldwide hegemony, and the story sort of works better with Jews closer to its center. The reality, of course, is that while rounding up and killing Jews was fairly central to Germany’s wartime policymaking, and anti-semitism was certainly central to Hitler’s worldview, rescuing Jews from harm played essentially no role in Allied policy. And of course Basterds in an entirely typical way manages to more-or-less airbrush the Soviet Union out of the European Theater despite the U.S.S.R. fairly clearly being the main Allied combatant on the continent.
None of that is a complaint about the movie itself, which hardly presents itself as historically accurate, but it sort of puts into relief the extent to which even less explicitly fanciful cinematic depictions of the war are pretty far out there.