Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. (2015, 168 min). ANCHOR BAY
Being a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, I first saw The Hateful Eight in a theater (unfortunately, not the highly touted Roadshow version, which played nowhere near where I live). In my opinion, he’s the only living director who has, so far, never made a bad movie. The Hateful Eight is no exception, though this is Tarantino at his most self-indulgent.
While most of his films tend to have running times well over two hours, this was the first one that actually felt long, the first time I thought some scenes could have been trimmed a bit here and there, the first time I glanced at my watch on occasion. Seeing it in a theater, with no break or intermission, was ultimately exhausting.
But like Reservoir Dogs, I enjoyed The Hateful Eight much more the second time, for some of the same reasons.
Despite Tarantino’s outstanding use of the classic Ultra-Panavision process to shoot this epic western, The Hateful Eight arguably plays better at home (albeit on a big-ass home theater system). It may be a cinematic love letter to a bygone era, but considering much of the film takes places within the confines of an isolated, single-room in the middle of nowhere during a raging blizzard, its intimate setting is more effective when viewed in an equally intimate room, preferably with all the lights off. Like Reservoir Dogs, not everyone is who they seem, and a big part of the fun lies in the slow, methodical way this film peels away its layers. Seeing it a second time and knowing what to expect, even the throwaway scenes I once thought could have been trimmed are now fraught with tension.
And again, like Reservoir Dogs, these are all really bad people, with Kurt Russell (as bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth) being the closest to anything resembling a hero, which ain’t saying much. Still, these are fascinating characters and we get to know most of them more intimately than we’re comfortable with. Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins are especially effective when playing off each other, since one is a former black officer in the Union army while the other fought for the Confederacy, and both committed terrible atrocities during the Civil War.
From a technical standpoint, The Hateful Eight is by far Tarantino’s best looking film, with stunning cinematography by Robert Richardson, who manages to render everything simultaneously epic and claustrophobic. This is also Tarantino’s first movie with an original score, provided by Ennio Morricone, who deserved his Oscar, and not just because he’s been overlooked by the Academy for decades. His music score is haunting, tense and sometimes achingly beautiful.
I suppose it's a given that the film is also bloody as hell.
While The Hateful Eight may not be top-tier Tarantino, it’s better than many directors’ magnum opuses and one which improves with repeated viewings. Considering many of his fans tend to share the same love of classic cinema, it’s sort-of a shame this Blu-Ray doesn’t include the 187 minute Roadshow version, complete with overture and intermission (perhaps that’s coming later).
BONUS FEATURES (which are surprisingly slim):
- “Beyond the Eight: A Behind-the-Scenes Look” (a very short making-of featurette)
- “Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm” (the more interesting of the two, about the efforts to make the first Ultra-Panavision film in decades)
- DVD & Digital Copies