The Hateful Eight – Movie Review
Rating: B+ (Very Good)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films
Over his last couple of films, Quentin Tarantino has spent a lot of time recreating his greatest movie influences and bringing back the cinema of the past. For The Hateful Eight, he really goes far and beyond for authenticity’s sake by filming it in 70 mm and including an overture and intermission in special prints. While a somewhat gimmicky way of releasing the film, Tarantino does give it a solid script and a strong ensemble of actors to stand on. Maybe he’s a little too in love with his own dialogue at this point, but he does keep the plot moving through its three hour length.
The main driving force of The Hateful Eight is a whodunit plot and part of what makes this mystery so invigorating is the cast. Throughout the course of the film, audiences will be constantly changing their mind over who the ensemble’s MVP is. Given he has the most screen time of the lot, Samuel L. Jackson gets the most stand-out scenes. His Major is a multi-dimensional character with Jackson going through a wide variety of necessary emotions. A lot of the race troubles of the time period is evoked through his interactions with the rest of the characters and Jackson knows how to deliver any monologue Tarantino hands him. Most of the ensemble seem to be calling to mind movie stars of the past, almost like Tarantino gave each of them a specific list of films to watch in preparation for their roles. Tim Roth is a frequent scene stealer with his channeling of Rex Harrison and Kurt Russell instantly calls to mind John Wayne.
One of the secret weapons of The Hateful Eight is, surprisingly enough, Walton Goggins. In this performance, Goggins shifts from gleeful excitement to suspicious callousness without missing a beat and then back to wide-eyed smiles again. It all fits in perfectly with the central storyline and everyone being a suspect and untrustworthy. Tarantino is often known for his penchant for colourful dialogue and The Hateful Eight certainly has his strong-tipped pen. Yet there are a number of points where it seems Tarantino cannot stop and lets his characters prattle on for a little while longer than necessary. While there are a couple of small action beats, the large majority of The Hateful Eight’s screenplay consists of talking. It’s almost thankful that there’s an intermission in the middle, because the audience does become in need of a breather. Like with Django Unchained, one begins to realise how important editor Sally Menke was in shaping Tarantino’s films. Inglourious Basterds was a perfectly edited film, knowing exactly the precise moment to cut a scene or piece of dialogue. Tarantino’s new editor Fred Raskin doesn’t appear to have that same level of control over his director.
A lot has been made about The Hateful Eight being shot on 70 mm and Robert Richardson’s cinematography is tremendous. While a lot of the movie is set in small locations, Richardson takes full advantage of the wider frame. The use of the snowy mountains is also spectacular. While most of the film uses brown, red and white, the colours are beautifully handled. If Tarantino and Richardson sought to capture the look of the classic widescreen western, they more than accomplished that task. Ennio Morricone produces a rare original soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino film and it makes one arriving early for the overture worth it. It’s a thumping score that digs itself into your head and while evoking the westerns of yesteryear, doesn’t feel like Morricone just repeating old notes.
The Hateful Eight may not be among the stronger Tarantino works, but it tells an engaging story with a clearly loving throwback. This is surprisingly more driven by the cast than Tarantino’s usual spicy dialogue and violent mayhem. There’s an almost theatrical sensibility to how this group of thespians perform and they’re allowed to go over-the-top but oddly in a way that fits their larger than life characters. This is a film that will probably play differently for those who see the general release cut without the intermission. The story is structured is such a way where the viewer needs to think back to the very beginning. It’s a cleverly handled piece of filmmaking, though maybe a little smart for its own good.