Quentin Tarantino's eighth film, aptly titled The Hateful Eight, is a testament to his love of classic filmmaking, as well as a challenge to those who see modernity and traditionalism in film as mutually exclusive.
The Hateful Eight is an unparalleled experience for any cinephile. If you're able to catch the roadshow version in it's (limited) availability in 70mm, you'll enjoy the three-hour runtime complete with an overture and intermission, which takes moviegoing back to the golden age of Hollywood.
If you're looking for a movie that is artful as well as entertaining, one that stretches you to your limits as an audience member, and leaves you wanting more all while feeling completely exhausted by the prospect, The Hateful Eight is perfect for you. If, however, you're looking for a easygoing Christmas movie to enjoy with the family, it might be wise to pick something else.
Spread across a vast Wyoming landscape blanketed with snow, The Hateful Eight opens by introducing us to the first of it's sizable ensemble cast. We meet bounty hunters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell), Ruth's captured fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and their stagecoach driver O.B. Jackson (James Parks). Their stagecoach is soon intercepted by Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims to be the sheriff of their destination, Red Rock.
On the brink of a blizzard, the five characters are forced to take shelter in Minnie's Haberdashery, where they meet four more strangers Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and ex-Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Combining elements of Western films and crime novels, the only thing you know for sure is that no one can be trusted. The less you know going into The Hateful Eight, the better.
In complete contrast to the sweeping landscape where we began, the majority of the film leaves viewers feeling claustrophobic inside the confines of Minnie's Haberdashery. While it's no easy task to fit so many large characters into such a small setting, each of actors' performances are able to reach their full potential, without overpowering one another.
As is to be expected of a Tarantino film, each of the actors plays their role fantastically. Most notably, Jennifer Jason Leigh, has found a way to be vile and abhorrent in an absolutely delightful way. Her playful dynamic with Kurt Russell makes their conjoined screen time some of the best in the film. Samuel L. Jackson also stands out as Major Warren, whose dialogue is packed with jaw-dropping delivery and a healthy dose of humor.
So where does this modern Western mystery go south? Unfortunately, some of what makes The Hateful Eight great, also contributes to its downfall. We should appreciate Tarantino's thoroughness in creating a world of mayhem and confusion within a small cabin, but some scenes feel exhausting and pull up on the reigns just a little too late.
As we've seen with Tarantino's other films like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, he builds the tension to the point of discomfort, and then makes you wait even longer. In The Hateful Eight, when the audience finally gets the "ah-ha" moments of sweet relief, they might not have been as satisfactory as possible had there been a less convoluted means of getting there.
When it comes to reviewing, Quentin Tarantino is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he's world renowned as one of the greatest living directors, and an auteur in every sense of the word. Anything he creates is bound to become a part of film history. On the other, his films are so unique that they can only be compared to his own earlier works and graded on a scale and genre wholly his own.
As it stands, The Hateful Eight is a fantastic film and a film student's wet dream. It is as groundbreaking and provocative as it is classic, and pays homage to films in a way that is palatable to today's audiences. Is The Hateful Eight Quentin Tarantino's best work yet? No. Fortunately, when it comes to someone as prolific and inimitable as Tarantino, you're always left with the feeling that his best is yet to come.
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight will be released in theaters starting December 25.