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Inglourious Basterds (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

While we bask in the continued greatness and experience of Once Upon A Time …In Hollywood, there’s plenty of work to be done on the home video catalog for Quentin Tarantino. We don’t have much at all of it on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. We get a bit of a jump on it this month, as 2009’s Inglourious Basterds makes its way to the format. The film was considered somewhat of a big bounce back for Tarantino after Grindhouse failed to find more than a cult audience. It also introduced much of the world to the wonderful Christoph Waltz. It arrives in a combo pack and retains its bonus features while not adding anything new to the mix for this release. Nonetheless, getting a new 4K remaster of a Tarantino film from Sony is treat enough itself. You’ll be able to own it starting on October 12th and can pre-order yourself a copy by utilizing the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review at the bottom of the page.

Film

Brad Pitt takes no prisoners in Quentin Tarantino’s high-octane WWII revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds. As war rages in Europe, a Nazi-scalping squad of American soldiers, known to their enemy as “The Basterds,” is on a daring mission to take down the leaders of the Third Reich. Bursting with “action, hair-trigger suspense and a machine-gun spray of killer dialogue” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone), Inglourious Basterds is “another Tarantino masterpiece” (Jake Hamilton, CBS-TV)!

Inlgourious Basterds is a powerhouse of everything we know from Quentin Tarantino up until that point. It has all his sensibilities and panache of everything from Reservoir Dogs to Death Proof at that point. All the while exploring new territory, growing as a filmmaker and transcending his strengths in new forms. Every bit as fun as it is grandiose, the film is just an impressive piece altogether as well as individual pieces themselves. If one were to claim it as his best film, you’ll see no arguments here, as its clearly in the conversation for that in his filmography.

Said pieces are the vignettes that make up the film, leading up to the final “Chapter” being a culmination and conclusion of them all coming together. The film almost plays anthology-like, but then again, not quite. Each sequences winds up being its own short story revolving around the war and the Nazi occupation of France in the early 1940s. They tell their own little stories both on paper and in their visual cinematic execution. All of them are measures in and a masterclass of suspense. Suspense, mind you, through nothing but the art of conversation, the art of a look, the art of camerawork. What Tarantino is pulling off here is insanely impressive and a place he hasn’t yet wandered before. A real understanding of how to showcase what film can do as a medium that other forms of art are unable to accomplish. The opening sequence with Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa shaking down a dairy farmer sheltering a Jewish family under his floorboards is nothing short of brilliant and something that should be marveled at, studied and taught.

What really cooks here is the strength of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue. Prior to Inglourious Basterds, he was no stranger to being praised for his craft in verbiage and the characters who say them. But with this film, he’s almost proving what he can do is universal, not just local. Much of the film is subtitled from French or German spoken dialogue. And it works just as well, if not possibly stronger than if it were in English. In this film we really get to read and contextualize is conversational brilliance and potentially even really digest it on a more connected level. And funny enough, its likely how non-English speaking audiences had been taking in his entire career up to this point. Tarantino also finds an actor who really makes his dialogue sing, possibly like no other before, in Christoph Waltz, who has taken home 2 Academy Awards for characters in the director’s films.

While have a load of film snobbery stuff to drool over and admire, the film is still quite fun on its surface. In addition to the suspense, it has some great set design and features some good humor of both the traditional and dark variety. The film is also relentless in its depiction of revisionist history which makes for an eye popping climax. In a film library of consistently great and well loved films, Inglorious Basterds easily makes a case for being one of them that stands above the rest.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: There’s no information provided regarding the transfer on the film. While I thought the image on Inglourious Basterds 4K UHD debut looked lovely, I’m pretty sure they’d put more in the presser about it being a new scan of from the negatives if it was going to be. But, I assumed this is an upscale as the film was finished with a 2K digital intermediate. Surprising as it is, I know Tarantino can be very hands on with his home video releases (I did work on the Death Proof DVD, he went back and forth a lot on fonts as well as 4×3 LB or 16×19 WS presentation for bonus features). Nonetheless, this was a pretty nifty uptick in quality from Blu to 4K for my eyes. Its got a more romantic darker look to it, giving the colors more pop. Details are stronger and the depth of field is much improved and more confident with camera movements and the like. Given that there are no other new additions on this release (Audio, Extras), this video transfer is all to go on. And it is indeed an improvement over the already impressive Blu-ray presentation. Is it day 1 worthy or wait til the price goes down worthy? That’s a good question, but for me it’s Tarantino and an upgrade so I’d probably be a day 1 regardless.

Depth:  There’s a rather impressive enhancement in depth here from the Blu-ray. One of the more noticeable areas comes from the card on forehead guessing game scene in the basement tavern. There’s a shot on Michael Fassbender that just looks wildly three dimensional and many of the shots down there feature a treasure trove depth of field. There is also the open when Lea Seydoux closes the window in the cabin that looks really deep and 3D. Movements are filmic and smooth with no issues regarding distortion.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and right on that natural level. They really provide nice contrast to add pop to all the rooms, fabrics and color on display while crafting a nice sharp image. No crushing witnesed.

Color Reproduction: Colors have a nice pop to them to go along with wonderful saturation. Red is a quite a striking color and all sorts of different shades of green really resonate in the frame. HDR really comes through in flames and some other brighter lights and clothes/posters/upholstery meant to have a little more buzz/glow to them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial information and texture is quite visible from any given camera distance, showcasing acne hidden by make-up, dried dirt/blood, wrinkles, cracks, stubble and more.

Noise/Artifacts: None

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS Digital, French 5.1 DTS Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: Inglourious Basterds retains its 5.1 mix that accompanied the original Blu-ray release. And that’s a very good thing as this is a very loud, punchy mix that also is quite loose and build wonderful atmosphere. There is a great sense of layering and the effects all feel quite lived in and present.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer provides a lot of great boom, from explosions, roaring fire, pounding gunfire, crashing, engines rumbling, glass shatter, punches landing and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: The channel weaving is quite clever here and really knows how to audibly paint a room into a lifelike experience. Its always aware of where it is in the film with great contributions and support from the rear channels to go with great travel and volume placement in the front channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, always present and full in the mix no matter how chaotic the action. Actor tone, diction and mouth sounds are well capture in this production.

Extras

Inglourious Basterds comes with the standard Blu-ray version and a redeemable digital code for the film.

Extended & Alternate Scenes (HD, 11:31)

Roundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Elvis Mitchell (HD, 30:45)

The New York Times Talks (HD, 1:08:07)

Nation’s Pride: Full Feature (HD, 6:10)

The Making of Nation’s Pride (HD, 4:00)

The Original Inglorious Bastards (HD, 7:38)

A Conversation with Rod Taylor (HD, 6:43)

Rod Taylor On Victoria Bitter (HD, 3:19)

Quentin Tarantino’s Camera Angel (HD, 2:41)

Hi Sallys (HD, 2:09)

Film Poster Gallery Tour With Elvis Mitchell (HD, 10:59) 

Inglorious Basterds Poster Gallery (HD)

Trailers (HD, 7:34)

Summary

Inglourious Basterds is one of Quentin Tarantino’s finest hours and the starting point of an impressive post-Grindhouse stretch that has seen one great entry after another (Yeah, I dig The Hateful Eight a lot). Universal’s release of the film includes a pretty beautiful looking 4K upscale of the film, along with the awesome 5.1 track from before included. Extras remain the same, so this is rather a cosmetic upgrade, but the film and image warrant being seen the best they can be.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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