The average cinema-goer must be getting stupider by the day. Disbelief is no longer being suspended, it is being hunted down and scalped, rather like the unsuspecting Nazi soldiers sweeping through the back streets of occupied France in Tarantino’s latest, Inglourious Basterds. Their fate? To die at the hand of one of the least believable characters in recent cinematic memory.
The film’s main focus is the titular basterds, a crack Jewish-American army hit squad, led by Pitt’s insufferable Aldo Raine, who hunt down and massacre Nazis, working closely with British and French intelligence and German double agents. As the plot unfolds, it transpires that this elite group’s masterplan for infiltrating a Nazi gathering at a theatre consists of walking through the front door pretending to be Italian cameramen, despite none of them speaking a word of Italian. In the event they enter, stand around looking stupid for a couple of minutes whereupon they are confronted by a Nazi officer, fail to speak Italian and are arrested and led away. Come again?
It’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Look back no further than the last Indiana Jones film. My favourite scene is the one where hexagenarian tomb-raider Harrison Ford and psychic Soviet Colonel Cate Blanchett sword-fight on the bonnets of jeeps speeding through the jungle, as killer ants ravage Nazi soldiers below; although I also like the bit near the beginning when Indy accidentally wanders into a nuclear bomb blast zone and survives miraculously, despite being blown about a mile away, by hiding in a nearby fridge.
In Swordfish, Hugh Jackman, recently voted the world’s sexiest man, plays a computer nerd hired to steal money for John Travolta, a black ops agent undercover as a crime lord who appears to be getting paid by the government to drive around the streets gunning people down asunder.
Even Terminator: Salvation was at it. Skynet have John Connor and/or Kyle Reese in custody so many times before the final showdown and fail to act, you start to wonder if Gordon Brown’s pulling the strings. I mean, if I was Skynet and the fate of the future was hanging on killing either of two humans wandering around, I’d forget about defrosting Arnie’s cousin and just bomb the absolute shit out of the place.
So why do we put up with it? Are we happy to have our intelligence constantly called into question? Either we don’t even notice anymore or we just don’t care. Look, a plot doesn’t have to be boring, or even likely – it just has to survive scrutiny and not fold under its own weight like the examples above. If you want to see a fantastic film from 2009 with a great plot, do yourself a favour – skip Lucas and Tarantino and pick up a copy of Henry Selick’s Coraline.