The first Quentin Tarantino film to be made and released in the high definition era, hopes were understandably high for the Blu-ray of Inglourious Basterds. Fortunately, the disc pretty much delivers what you’d want from it.
The film pulls together an ensemble cast led by Brad Pitt, who heads up the Basterds of the film’s title. They’re a group of commandos working behind enemy lines, who look to strike the Nazis where it hurts. Yet the film works best when it focuses elsewhere, ironically, in particular on Christoph Waltz’s stunning depiction of Nazi officer Landa. He’s at the heart of the film’s finest moments, and is rightly attracting many awards for his performance. He’s the peak of a strong movie, and Inglourious Basterds ranks as one of Tarantino’s most downright enjoyable films to date.
As for the Blu-ray? The transfer of the film is very sharp and very impressive, and rewards the high definition premium. As does the active and vibrant surround sound mix, which picks up both the subwoofer-engaging moments of mayhem along with the subtler moments with ease. It’s the finest way to watch Inglourious Basterds outside of a cinema. Now we just need Tarantino’s back catalogue to get the proper high definition upgrade treatment too… --Jon Foster
Although Quentin Tarantino has cherished Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 "macaroni" war flick The Inglorious **** for most of his film-geek life, his own Inglourious Basterds is no remake. Instead, as hinted by the Tarantino-esque misspelling, this is a lunatic fantasia of WWII, a brazen re-imagining of both history and the behind-enemy-lines war film subgenre. There's a Dirty Not-Quite-Dozen of mostly Jewish commandos, led by a Tennessee good ol' boy named Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) who reckons each warrior owes him one hundred Nazi scalps--and he means that literally. Even as Raine's band strikes terror into the Nazi occupiers of France, a diabolically smart and self-assured German officer named Landa (Christoph Waltz) is busy validating his own legend as "The Jew Hunter." Along the way, he wipes out the rural family of a grave young girl (Melanie Laurent) who will reappear years later in Paris, dreaming of vengeance on an epic scale.
Now, this isn't one more big-screen comic book. As the masterly opening sequence reaffirms, Tarantino is a true filmmaker, with a deep respect for the integrity of screen space and the tension that can accumulate in contemplating two men seated at a table having a polite conversation. IB reunites QT with cinematographer Robert Richardson (who shot Kill Bill), and the colours and textures they serve up can be riveting, from the eerie red-hot glow of a tabletop in Adolf Hitler's den, to the creamy swirl of a Parisian pastry in which Landa parks his cigarette. The action has been divided, Pulp Fiction-like, into five chapters, each featuring at least one spellbinding set-piece. It's testimony to the integrity we mentioned that Tarantino can lock in the ferocious suspense of a scene for minutes on end, then explode the situation almost faster than the eye and ear can register, and then take the rest of the sequence to a new, wholly unanticipated level within seconds.
Again, be warned: This is not your "Greatest Generation," Saving Private Ryan WWII. The sadism of Raine and his boys can be as unsavory as the Nazi variety; Tarantino's latest cinematic protégé, Eli (director of Hostel) Roth, is aptly cast as a self-styled "golem" fond of pulping Nazis with a baseball bat. But get past that, and the sometimes disconcerting shifts to another location and another set of characters, and the movie should gather you up like a growing floodtide. Tarantino told the Cannes Film Festival audience that he wanted to show "Adolf Hitler defeated by cinema." Cinema wins. --Richard T. Jameson