Quentin Tarantino, more so than any other filmmaker, has a presence that you can’t miss in his own movies. Between the very specific style and his actual appearances, you know when you’re watching a Tarantino film. The appropriately named The Hateful Eight doesn’t waste any time before letting you know this is the legendary director’s eighth project. This can certainly come off in a variety of ways, and Tarantino has become a polarizing figure in the entertainment industry. But I’ve always felt that his presence contributes to the personality of the movies themselves, and I enjoy experiencing a director’s full immersion into his own work. It is a very specific style for a very specific taste, but I love these movies. And The Hateful Eights lives up to the Tarantino standard.
Like many of his previous hits, The Hateful Eight proves that too much of a good thing is absolutely a good thing. The three-hour run time can be intimidating, but the time flies by with sharp dialogue that brings this despicable bunch of murderers and thieves to life. I always say the most impressive on-screen chemistry is a cohesive, almost chummy atmosphere between characters who do not like each other. A great score that gets you right into the setting complements the lively banter and anecdotes. The Hateful Eight takes its time, but doesn’t waste any. The violence is of course over the top, but it never comes across as unbelievable within the context of these films. By the time heads start exploding, you’re just ready to roll with it. The film is not without an excess of controversy either, with a racial slur count that rivals Django Unchained. But much like South Park, Tarantino films use prejudice as a means to mock those who are guilty of it. Satire is often the most effective tool of social justice.
All of this great writing, music, and concepts would’ve fallen flat without the perfect cast. I know this is a small detail that we usually overlook, but you’ll actually remember the names of the characters in this movie. Usually, when we watch movies, we’d likely pass a quiz immediately following the presentation that asks us to name the characters we’ve been following for two hours. But while we’re actually watching, we’re more likely to refer to the characters in our heads by the names of the actors unless the characters are pop culture sensations like superheroes or someone from Star Wars. When describing you favorite Wolf of Wall Street scene, for example, you’re more likely to say Leo than Jordan. But The Hateful Eight brings characters to life. You’ll find yourself talking about Daisy and The Hangman instead of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell. It even had me saying Major Marquis Warren instead of Samuel L Jackson. I’ll admit to saying Channing Tatum after his cameo (not a spoiler, he’s in the opening credits) but overall I actually forgot about actors for a few hours. Tarantino wisely uses constant name repetition in his films to not let you forget them, especially in this one. But it’s ultimately the actors who turn words into people you’ll remember.
I’m a sucker for Sam Jackson, and it was great watching him enjoy a rare turn in a leading role. The former and future highest grossing actor in the world knows how to carry a movie as well as he knows how to support one. But the biggest standout of The Hateful Eight is the foul-mouthed, love to hate Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She’s hilarious without ever making the movie silly, and pushes the rest of the characters to up their game from start to finish. The prisoner with a plan trope has been played out to exhaustion, but to say this role puts a spin on that is an understatement. I won’t do any spoilers this time around, because the full effect of the movie can only be felt if you have legitimately no idea what’s going to unfold. All I’ll say is that there is a very clearly telegraphed point of no return at which you know what’ll be hitting the proverbial fan, and that the payoff from that point forward more than justifies the film’s extensive buildup.
I did love this movie, but I suppose I’m not shocked or offended by the lack of a best picture nomination. It’s not as perfect a movie as Inglourious Basterds. Then again, few films are, but I can see The Hateful Eight having a less universal appeal than the Pulp Fictions of the world. Maybe I’ll see Brooklyn and start complaining, but either way this isn’t the most criminal snub we’ve seen this season. The lack of a Best Original Screenplay, on the other hand, may make my shortlist. Nonetheless, it’s all in the award season family when you have the frontrunner for Score and a strong contender for Supporting Actress. This is a very rewatchable film that may even hold more value once you see it a second time, for various plot reasons. I’d easily recommend it to both Tarantino fans and movie fans considering his films for the first time. This is a film with a very different attitude, made for fans who are similarly insane.