Inglourious Basterds (2009) | 4K Blu-ray Review

Often touted as Quentin Tarantino’s best directorial entries, Inglourious Basterds combines a physcological thriller, a disconnected/reconnected multi-chapter study of character development, and a bloody revenge flick, all into one. But, has Universal Studios put together the right combination of video, audio and features, to make it’s entry into 4K worthy of a spot in your collection, or does it deserve to meet its end in a fiery explosion?

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Inglourious Basterds, 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-100)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Released By:Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date:October 12th, 2021
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
Resolution:4K: Upscaled 4K, 2160/24p
BR: Full HD, 1080/24p
Digital Intermediate (DI):2K (filmed on 35mm negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):HDR10+, HDR10
Aspect Ratio:2.39:1
Audio Format(s):4K/BR:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)

Additional track available in French and Spanish
Subtitles:English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Packaging:Dual disc snap case with slipcover*

*Slipcover likely only be available on limited edition pressing
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region-free

Video Review:

NOTE: Before I get into this, there has been quite a bit of discussion around this release online. While I will not be (intentionally) entering the drama, I do have some general thoughts around how I approach and consider specifications as they equate to visual quality. If you are not interested in those, my feelings will not be hurt if you skip the next paragraph and jump right to the review of the visuals.

I have to acknowledge that I am coming at this review a few weeks following its release, and I am well aware of the online back and forth of several reviewers and fans equally panning and praising the visual quality of the release as well as the efforts, or lack thereof, of Universal to bring this film in its highest quality. Some of the arguments are legitimate and some are certainly misinformed, but I am not going to address the specifics of that debate in this review or propose to take sides with one person or another. Rather I’d prefer to highlight how I consider technical specifications of any release. In general, I do not consider technical specs as a primary factor of assessing quality and worthiness of a release directly. But rather I look to them only to possible contributors to explain good/bad qualities based on my assessment. While I may highlight some in the overview of a release, they are presented there for information for those who are interested and not for supporting any particular assessment. In reality there are a lot of factors around the technical preparation of a release that impact it’s ultimate quality, and broadly applying judgement based on any particular specification as a determining factor of a releases’ quality is highly misguided.  Additionally, there are even more logistical factors, including practical effort, cost and time, that ultimately balance a studios decisions around a specific release to ensure they can justify making it happen. As collectors and movie fans, we should always hope that we get the very best available with every last step being taken to bring the most definitive version of the movies we love, but getting something that is 95% as good is always better than not getting it at all.

On to the review of the video quality, while originally shot on film, the movie was finished digitally and the same intermediate for past releases was used here, before upscaling, color grading and moved to disc (yes, an oversimplification of the steps involved). Though the same intermediate as past Blu-rays, the visual quality is definitely improved over everything we have received before. The detail in skin, clothing, hair and more is well resolved, more refined, and filmic in nature. The details in the opening scenes at the farm house immediately present you with fine closeups revealing small beads of perspiration, textures on furniture that have a tactile quality to them and environmental details that have just that much more clarity. This quality is carried through the film with great consistency. That said, much like many of Quenton Tarantino/Robert Richardson films, there is a bit of softness here and there, but it feels appropriate rather than disappointing. 

Grain is present throughout the film and overall it looks pretty good with a few moments where it is not as finely controlled or organic as I would have liked, but not to the point of distraction.

The colors of the film definitely get a lift, whether it be the striking red of Shoshanna’s dress, blood spatters and Nazi imagery, or the greens and yellows of the French countryside, all of the primaries get just a bit more punch, sometimes eding up but never crossing the line of excess. The neutrals remain mostly neutral and earthy by contrast.

Speaking of contrast, the levels in this presentation have definitely been elevated. While I did not feel it was inappropriate given the visual style of the film and creative team, it was also something that could be misinterpreted as being too dark or too bright based on the specific scene. Robert Richardson is well known for his usage of top/back lighting to edge light performers, as well as for stark contrast between lighting even within the same shot (for example, the well lit milk glass compared to the dimly lit surroundings of the farm house) adding dramatic appeal and tension to scenes. The HDR grading definitely brought those aspects of his style much more towards the extreme with certain bright elements appearing almost, or actually, blown out and dimly lit areas down into the shadows. While more extreme than past releases, I did not find this displeasing. If looking at it in isolation of a screenshot, highlights and shadows are much more juxtaposed than when experiencing the film in action in a well controlled home theater environment. That said, depending on your screen, as well as your preferences, you may perceive some of those shadow areas as less inky, and more elevated, but the overall ratio of bright whites to dark blacks is still high meaning the image in no way looks flat as a result.

The main head-scratcher on the release is why they opted to include HDR10+, but not Dolby Vision. While both are very capable, the adoption of the latter is definitely higher in the U.S. from a display standpoint, so it seems like they could have included both dynamic formats.

Video Score (4K): 4.3 / 5

The included Blu-ray is the same as the 2009 release and will not receive a score as part of this review.

Audio Review:

The 5.1 mix we have on board the 4K disc is the same as found on past releases and the included Blu-ray disc. It’s a strong mix with high quality, clear dialog that makes this character driven movie highly intelligible throughout. The use of surrounds is strong creating both ambiance and supporting some of the action  of this still fairly front heavy movie. The LFE is certainly present throughout, but it is not what I would call “strong” mostly coming in to support some of the hits and explosions but not driving up into the action movie levels of bass. Capable front speakers running full range could handle most of the low end, but that certainly does not mean to turn off your subs.

While I would have preferred a slightly more expansive and active mix and a more modern format is always welcomed, what we did keep on the disc in terms of audio is still quite good and made for an enjoyable experience.

Audio Score (4K): 4.0 / 5

The included Blu-ray is the same as the 2009 release and will not receive a score as part of this review.

Special Features and Packaging:

Universal ported over most of the special features, with a couple minor exceptions, from the past Blu-ray releases. Those features are mostly enjoyable and rewatchable for a fan of the film. There was one addition for this release and it is an hour-long discussion with Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Elvis Mitchell regarding the film. It was a nice inclusion and something fans have not had on the format yet, but also not an expansive list of additions.

The packaging is pretty average, with the inclusion of a slipcover and semi-decent artwork, and some disc art on this type of standard release is expected and they did deliver. So no real points gained or lost on this front.

Features Score: 3.2 / 5


If you are a fan, I would recommend you pick this up if you find it for under $20. I know there were a bunch of people cancelling pre-orders after  a couple of poor reviews prior to release, but I think the flack this release caught was unwarranted. I think the upgrade in the visual detail is certainly there and the handling of color and contrast was certainly on the more extreme side, but it just made the experience slightly different, but overall noticeable better than past Blu-ray releases. If you were one of those people who did cancel, I would say to reconsider, or maybe wait until a Black Friday deal and nab this on sale if you don’t want to risk your budget. 

Buy/Upgrade Recommendation: YES, for the right price

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Amazon

Summary and Overall Scores:

I was disappointed with the initial rumblings about this release, but I’m glad I picked it up in spite of them as this is definitely a well-presented upgrade of a great film on visuals and maintaining a very good audio mix. Given the many considerations the studio likely had to make, there were only a few things I could really give them negatives for and nothing that would hold me back from having this version in my collection.

Experience Score**: 4.1 / 5  (Very Good)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.

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