You Brave Basterds
Brave and Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s recent film follows two stories in Vichy France, tracking both a renegade group of Nazi-hunting Jews dropped in occupied France and a young woman who gets a chance to avenge her family’s murder by burning down a movie theater full of Nazi bigwigs. Pixar’s recent film follows two stories in a magical pseudo-Scotland, tracking both a young princess who wants to live a different life than the one her mother had planned and the political knife edge along which her father’s kingdom walks. A few thoughts:
- Both films develop a fascinating and dark villain. Brave presents us with a gigantic bear, impervious to weapons and malevolent as the devil. It bites off the king’s leg early on, and menaces the kingdom thereafter. Of course, there’s more to it than that. Alas, the film comes up a bit short in giving us enough of his story. Basterds goes the other way, giving us plenty of the friendly and awful Col Landa, though we see too little of him to know his real feelings, he certainly doesn’t balk at doing his job for the Reich. The grinning “Jew Hunter” reminds me of an evil Columbo, sharing dessert and milk with his victims, circling like a grinning shark. Obsequiously polite. If they were still making Columbo movies, they could cast Christophe Walz as an excellent villain.
- Both films involve a finale in which a strong-willed woman addresses a room full of people with a message they won’t like. In Basterds, she follows the address by killing them all; in Brave, she unites them. The character in each film earns her power, fighting against society / Nazis and navigating a fine social line as well.
- Alternate history provides the setting for these stories. In each, a setting we’re familiar with twists slightly to fit the needs of the story, be they will-o-the-wisps and witches with spells or a Jewish revenge fantasy including the assassination of Hitler.
- I love when actors get to do accents and chew the scenery. Billy Connolly feasts heartily on the part of the boorish King Fergus, who wants nothing more than to feast, fight, and I presume, AHEM. In that way, he’s not unlike King Robert from Game of Thrones. (In fact, if Merinda had not handled the crowd so well, the big speech scene might have turned intoclan warfare.) Similarly, Brad Pitt chows down on the part of Lt. Aldo Raine, crinkling his chin and cracking wise as he kills Nazis and carves them up.
- Last, both films feature a tense scene in which the characters we like do their best to keep the villain from noticing the enemy hiding in plain sight. Inglourious Basterds features a drinking game in a bar, an attempt to keep an SS officer from recognizing a British spy dressed in Nazi clothes. Brave includes a scene in which Merinda must help a bear escape through a room full of bear hunters without them noticing.
Both films are enjoyable, though neither is as good as the best films from their group (Pixar and Quentin Tarantino, respectively). I’d only recommend one of them as family-friendly.
See also: Mark Bousquet over at Atomic Anxiety has a thorough (though spoiler-filled) review explaining why Brave is a good movie, but not a great one.