Review: The Hateful Eight, 2016

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As with all Tarantino films, I think I’m going to need a second viewing to truly know how I feel about The Hateful Eight. It is truly hateful – there’s not a redeemable character amongst the eight, which leaves no one to sympathize with. And generally I find that problematic in storytelling, but Tarantino and his actors are always able to make me care about these characters and their story somehow. In this film in particular, he does that by using the hate-ability of the characters to explore America’s extremely complicated history of morality. Which makes the film itself morally complicated, and the viewer rather uncomfortable as you’re forced to wrestle with a world that is essentially nihilistic, and relatively accurate to a reality we were living in not so long ago. But I think the struggle that the viewer must go through once given that reminder is the point of the film, and I think it’s pretty successful in that regard.

The performances in this are just fantastic. Especially Samuel L Jackson and Walton Goggins, who gets more to do here than in anything I’ve seen him in before, and he nearly acts circles around the rest of the cast. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives a truly monstrous performance in a really meaty role for an actress, something we still don’t see often enough. Russell is a lot of fun and plays into the big comedic moments he’s given with a bravado that is unique unto him. Tim Roth seems to be doing a Christoph Waltz impression, but it’s great and he was often my favorite presence in any scene. I love Bruce Dern so much and am continually impressed with how sharp his sense of humor still is. The rest of the cast doesn’t get given a whole lot to do, but they all play their parts well. It really is Jackson and Goggins’ movie though, and I truly think this is probably Jackson’s career best. He’s just terrific in this, so endlessly entertaining to watch.

I got to see the Ultra Panavision 70 Roadshow presentation of The Hateful Eight and I can’t recommend the experience enough. I was amazed with how much of the screen it filled, but how clear it all was. Often in IMAX I find myself having to pan and scan the screen with my eyes to take in a whole frame. This feels like it’s that size, yet I’m able to take in the whole frame at once. The colors look great, the grain of the film is present, and despite the fact that half the movie takes place in a small location, Tarantino takes advantage of the full frame and even when a scene only features two characters talking to each other, we can see the rest of the cast in the frame continuing to act. The original score by Morricone, his first for a Western in 40 years, is a real treat, and I think the movie actually benefits from the Overture you get in this presentation, because you get to familiarize yourself with the musical themes before beginning the story. I also have a feeling that this GREATLY benefits from the intermission – at more than 3 hours in run-time, and chock full of long conversations that don’t quite have that powder keg tension he perfected in Inglourious Basterds, I think it might be easy for this film to wear out its welcome without a little break. It actually made me think, for the first time, that Kill Bill might in fact benefit from being divided into two films.

Oh and the first half of the The Hateful Eight closes on easily my favorite shot of the year, just before breaking for intermission – if you’ve seen the film, you dinguses know what I’m talking about.

Overall enjoyable, despite how hateful and graphic it is, leaving me with plenty to chew on. I can’t wait to see it again and get a better flavor for how well this holds up.

The Hateful Eight scored: ★★★☆☆

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