IGN Blu-ray Review: Inglourious Basterds

How does QT's epic homage play out in HD?

by | December 14, 2009 | Comments

When Tarantino first announced that he would cast, film, edit and premiere
Inglourious Basterds
within a window of less than 10 months, the
announcement left many who’d yet to read the script curious as to whether he
could realistically succeed. After all, this was Tarantino’s self-described
homage to The Dirty Dozen, a character-heavy man-on-a-mission script that
would most certainly contain the kind of large-scale action set pieces that
require months to film. It would, one supposed, be heavy on European intrigue,
meticulously plotted and narratively involved. Featuring a bad-ass group of
Nazi-killin’ soldiers, we assumed that casting would be a substantial hurdle of
A-list names and that the Basterds‘ interaction would be a pivotal part
of the film. There was nothing about the endeavor that didn’t appear entirely
time-consuming…

…Except that, in the end, there are no large-scale battle scenes, no A-list
talent (save for Brad Pitt), no complicated plotting or intricate structure… The
Basterds’ don’t appear for the majority of the screen time and there are a
shockingly small amount of scenes in the film for being two and a half hours
long… Apparently, Tarantino knew that the way to make a movie in eight months
was simply this: not to make a movie at all.

Inglourious Basterds is less a single experience than it is four brief
plays and a short film. It is, by far, Tarantino’s more theatrical work since
Reservoir Dogs
, the dialogue-heavy, single-setting opus that first painted
the writer/director as the mid-Miramax posterchild for the ’70s-inspired crime
drama. Like Kill Bill before it, the film is divided into five
“chapters,” each more of a scene than a sequence, in which characters engage in
lengthy, too-casual conversations as a precursor to some sudden bit of
ultra-violent punctuation. Each chapter runs about 20 to 30 minutes in length,
usually set within a single room, and highlights a specific set of characters —
the “Jew Hunter” Col. Landa in the first chapter, Lt. Aldo Raine and the
Basterds in the second, a Jewish survivor and her would-be German suitor in the
third and a handful of British-German spies in the fourth. The fifth chapter
weaves the stories together in a climax that is certainly the most structured
and “cinematic” portion of the film.

Score: 7 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1200615&MapTypeID=2&photo=149&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Video and Presentation

The video, presented in 2.40:1 widescreen at 1080p, delivers an impressive
picture that outshines any of Tarantino’s other films. The clean, sharp picture
has only a hint of grain and no digital flaws that we could detect. It boasts a
high level of detail, showcasing the textures of the period art direction, from
the costumes to the sets to the background graphics, even the hair and makeup
stand out nicely. The color palette is hardly vibrant for much of the film,
sticking mostly to the browns and grays of wartime Europe, but the few symbolic
splashes of bright color, like the Nazi standards, Shosanna’s red dress and the
fiery finale, are faithfully reproduced for maximum impact. Contrast is also
well represented in stark whites and deep, solid black levels. There’s a lot to
be pleased with in this fine presentation.

Score: 9 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1200615&MapTypeID=2&photo=148&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Languages and Audio

As usual with Tarantino’s work, Inglourious Basterds is a rather
dialogue-driven affair, with a smattering of moments in which the music takes a
front seat. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track serves all of the elements equally
well, allowing each to take its turn in the spotlight. The lossless format is
ideal for delivering the film’s complex sound design and immersive ambiance, as
demonstrated in the basement tavern scene and the crowded movie theater at the
end. When the action kicks in, the snap of gunfire is appropriately jarring, and
the coordinated movement across the channels almost makes you want to duck. The
dynamic, resonant score does come in a bit too forcefully at times, causing us
to reach for the remote to adjust the volume more than once, but there was no
hint of distortion, popping or hissing to be found. There are also DTS 5.1
tracks available in Spanish and French.

Score: 9 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1200615&MapTypeID=2&photo=147&legacy=1[/rtimage]

Extras and Packaging

Sadly, for such a sophisticated and intelligent film, the extras on this release
are something of a mess. In fact, there are only two extras across either disc
that are ultimately worth watching — the half-hour discussion with Tarantino,
Pitt and Elvis Mitchell and the full-length version of Nation’s Pride,
the film-within-a-film directed by Eli Roth. Nation’s Pride is simply a
point of interest, smartly made by Roth, and the discussion with Tarantino and
Pitt proves rather insightful in terms of the scripting and performance, as well
as the reception of the movie overseas. This is the closest fans will get to a
commentary, unfortunately.

Aside from this, fans are offered a montage of actors saying “hello” to editor
Sally Menke before certain takes, as well as the making of Nation’s Pride
which, instead of taking a serious look at the creation of the short film, finds
Roth in-character and boasting a ridiculous German accent while talking about
the film as a real production. Needless to say, the “meta” approach feels too
jokey and out of place for such an otherwise intelligent film. The smattering of
“extended” sequences are fairly uninteresting in that they’re simply longer
versions of already lengthy sequences, adding little. For a film that was no
doubt scripted longer than what we see here, we might have appreciated a few
deleted scenes rather than extended material.

There are a few BD exclusives on this disc as well, although Universal didn’t
see fit to give this disc a U-Control feature. The BD-Live portal will take you
to a site where you can host a chat with friends online and upload your own
webcam commentary. You can also play the “Killin’ Nazis Trivia Challenge” and
test your knowledge against other fans (not too exciting). The disc is also
D-Box enabled, for those who’ve got the tricked-out furniture to take advantage
of it. Finally, Universal includes the new “Pocket Blu” experience, which works
with an iPhone or iPod Touch app that turns your device into a remote control
and enables Mobile-to-Go access, so you can watch bonus content anywhere. It
might sound impressive, but we’re still not quite convinced of the usefulness of
all this technology yet.

Score: 7 out of 10[rtimage]MapID=1200615&MapTypeID=2&photo=146&legacy=1[/rtimage]
The Bottom Line

An engaging, if somewhat problematic, film gets its due with a quality Blu-ray
presentation, though we’d liked to have seen a more substantial collection of
special features.

Overall Score: 8 out of 10 (not an average)[rtimage]MapID=1200615&MapTypeID=2&photo=115&legacy=1[/rtimage]
For additional IGN coverage on Blu-ray, including more reviews, news, and
previews, visit bluray.ign.com. And for RT’s
own coverage, visit our Blu-ray
HQ
.

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