Quentin Tarantino is back with another Western for Christmas and let me tell you, it’s one hell of a gift! If The Force Awakens was proof that Star Wars is back to its roots, The Hateful Eight shows us that the classic film making experience is here as well! I really hope it sticks around.
The plot is simple and straightforward, but if you’ve ever seen a Quentin Tarantino film, you’ll know that there’s more underneath the surface. John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is a bounty hunter, taking his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the hangman in the town of Red Rock when he is stopped by Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and then by the soon-to-be-sworn-in Sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walton Coggins). A bad snow storm forces them to hold up in a haberdashery (or cabin, if you will) where they meet some folks who may or may not be who they say they are (Characters played by Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir and Bruce Dern). John Ruth begins to suspect that someone or many of them are in on a plot to kill him and rescue Daisy from his clutches. What follows is a tense and often humorous at times, game of trust and lies.
The Hateful Eight takes place in only two locations: a stagecoach and the haberdashery so its strengths rely on the performances of the actors, the score, cinematography and direction. Everyone in this movie turns in fantastic performances with Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins being the standouts; though I’d be really surprised if the Academy didn’t recognize any, if not all of them for a best actor/supporting actor nod, let alone the director and the film, respectively.
Breathtaking imagery of the snowy landscape, along with the quintessential Quentin camera angles, gives us an isolated, claustrophobic feel, adding to the tension. Taking cues from many movies about trust and deceit, The Hateful Eight ends up reminding me a lot of John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing. In fact, Tarantino screened only one movie for his cast before shooting and you guessed it: it was The Thing.
An amazing original score by Ennio Morricone gives The Hateful Eight a lot of its momentum. Quentin Tarantino is known for his long, suspense-building dialogue and The Hateful Eight is no exception, but the score is always there, leitmotifs and all, with a tense compliment to the rest of the film, keeping the viewer in the moment, waiting for the next bombshell to drop on our characters. I was really happy Ennio Morricone decided to do an original score and the use of modern music was sparse and effective. I already love those two songs and hearing them in the film gave it extra brownie points.
What really bothered me about Django Unchained was the use of modern rap music that felt dropped in like it wasn’t edited correctly. It cheapened the experience and made that last shootout seem rushed and hard to enjoy. The Hateful Eight is a complex, more refined film than Django as Quentin is more focused on characterization and style, instead of simply style and exploitation. I love to see director's hone their craft and you can tell Quentin enjoys it. We all win. The Hateful Eight is a slow burn, but an exciting one and it doesn’t feel long because you are too wrapped up in what’s going on. I was.
Certain theaters across the U.S. are showing “Roadshow” versions of the film and I cannot recommend it enough! Upon purchasing a ticket, viewers are treated to a program booklet about the film and upon entering the theater, an overture plays with a selection from the score. It really set the mood and was a lot better than watching previews! Once the movie starts you are treated to a wider picture (65mm filmed on Ultra Panavision 70 with a 2.76:1 aspect ratio), which Quentin uses to his advantage, often placing characters on opposite sides of the screen for dramatic effect and for wide landscape shots. Two hours in, and after a horrifying, yet hilarious monologue by Samuel L. Jackson, we are also treated to a 12 minute intermission and then the last hour of the film begins. Upon leaving the theater, I could only talk about how classy it was to show a film the way films are meant to be seen as an event.
I would be lying if I said I gave this film an 8/10, despite any last “8” jokes I could have thrown in there. It was one of the most memorable movie going experiences I have had in a long time…if you don’t count Star Wars!