Before I say anything else, it should be understood that I am a fan of Tarantino. The man, though he loves to hear himself write, does so for good reason. He is a fantastic writer. His two Oscars speak to that. He is probably the celebrity director of the day, and that’s remarkable since he makes films that demonstrably turn their backs on a broad audience. Now, with that being said, I’ve found his last three films, which happen to be my three favorite films of his, contain what are to my mind major plot holes. To be fair, the characters discuss and address these alternate plot routes that I, in their place, would have taken, so these are not quite plot holes so much as plot question marks. Why? Why comes up a lot in his movies. I’ve watched and rewatched his work over the years and enjoyed his idiosyncratic dialogue and verbal suspense each time, but still some nagging questions linger as to why things ended up the way they did, starting with his best film in my opinion, Inglourious Basterds.
Plot works best when it is thrown into motion by external forces: fate, God, evil, etc. Stupidity or an absence of the requisite wherewithal are bad motivations for plot, and usually find themselves in bad movies. The curious thing to me is that I find them in Tarantino’s films and yet these films somehow manage to come out special.
Inglourious Basterds is a hell of a movie. A band of jews hunting down Nazis, a devilishly charming Nazi hunting down Jews, a theater owner plotting to kill Hitler make for an inspired narrative. Skipping ahead to final act though where Tarantino demands a high body count, you’ll find my quibble with the maestro’s plotting. Basically, Shosanna the theater owner previously mentioned is a jewish girl who’s wants vengeance for the murder of her family. Through a somewhat disarming and romantic sequence of events, a premier of a major new German film will be shown in her theater, and as a result, all of Germany’s top dogs will be in attendance. Here is her chance. Meanwhile, the basterds remaining members are also looking to capitalize on the event. They sneak into the premier under bad Italian guises armed with explosives. Shosanna’s plan, and a considerable amount of time is dedicated to the buildup, is to burn her film stock which is highly flammable. She pulls off her end of the action, but it immediately becomes irrelevant as the basterds just blow the whole theater up. It was unneccessary. Sure, she didn’t know that, but we do.
Less of an issue, but moving in a similar vein is the whole idea in The Hateful Eight that John Ruth refuses to cheat the hangman. He is transporting Daisy Domergue to Red Rock, Wyoming where she is to be executed by hanging. A winter storm kicks in and forces Ruth and his bounty to shack up with a group of strangers in a lodge where no one is as they seem. The film’s main character Marquis Warren let’s us know early on that Ruth always makes sure his bounty are hanged, as a matter of weird principle, but I couldn’t help thinking all along, just shoot her. Again it’s characters making things harder for themselves which is usually a weakness.
Django Unchained stands out as the most egregious. In the film, after a lengthy but entertaining first act where Django transitions from a slave to a bounty hunter under the tutelage of his benevolent master, Dr. Schultz, Django seeks to liberate his beloved wife, Broomhilda, property of the vile Calvin Candy. It seems to me, and I’m sure some of you have thought this, that his best course of action would be to go to the self-branded Monsieur Candy and offer a ridiculous sum of money for the prize that they actually want, instead of all this elaborate hoodwinking business with the mandingo fighters. Naturally it would need to be a white person dealing, so have Dr. Schultz go and make the deal and then they can all ride off happily into the sunset. Instead, the two create some kind of emotionally straining con where they pretend to want to buy mandingo fighters and make his wife seem like just someone thrown in to the bargain. Then, because of course in a Tarantino film it’s not going to work, the poor decision making continues when Candy catches onto the plot and forcibly makes the deal for Broomhilda. Granted it’s a nasty business. He holds a hammer to her scull until Schultz agrees to pay, but then, you know, problem solved. They have Django’s wife. The deal is done. They got what they went there to get. Now all that’s left is to shake the villain’s hand and leave. Instead Schultz kills Candy, and then in comes a massacre. The point is that the heroes of this film and Tarantino’s films in general make things so much harder than they have to be.