The Hateful Eight is excessive in every way imaginable. Its roadshow runtime is a whopping 187 minutes. The characters talk for an eternity. Blood spurts in every which way. Certain scenes feel like they exist just to exist, circling around and around without building up the tension as well as they would with a better editor. And yet, from under those problems emerges a wildly entertaining movie, a Western mashed up with a whodunit mashed up with a horror film that is ultimately also 100% Tarantino. Simply put, I had a blast.
Buzz around the roadshow release obviously centers on Tarantino filming in 70 mm, an interesting choice considering most of the film takes place in a confined space. However, Tarantino and longtime cinematographer Robert Richardson still manage to capture gorgeous exterior shots before moving indoors, and once they do move indoors, the 70 mm takes on a more unique role. Even though Minnie’s Haberdashery is supposed to feel claustrophobic–and it does at times–there are still a fair amount of wide shots utilized, shots that force you to pay attention to what’s going on in the background. The blocking is very deliberate, and the entire production feels very theatrical. In addition, there is an incredible amount of vivid detail captured in the characters’ faces (look to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy for the best example), faces that are simultaneously hiding something and attempting to figure out what’s going on around them.
Speaking of the characters, this is without a doubt a stellar cast. The first half doesn’t crackle with the same amount of tension as Tarantino’s previous efforts, but it builds up to a Marquis Warren monologue that Samuel L. Jackson throws himself into with glee. And it’s not just him who gets moments in the spotlight. Every actor has a fairly meaty role in the movie, and I’ll single out two here. Walton Goggins, arguably the most underrated actor out there right now–seriously, Shane Vendrell and Boyd Crowder are two of the best characters you will ever see–gives a delightfully hammy performance as Chris Mannix, the alleged new Sheriff of Red Rock. Hammy might not work in another movie, but it works like a charm here. I’ll also highlight Jennifer Jason Leigh, a fantastic actress who gives the most compelling performance of the film as Daisy Domergue. Daisy spits and yells and laughs and takes a beating throughout, and it’s the second half in which the character becomes unleashed in all her frightening, vicious glory.
That’s how I’d describe the second half as a whole, a half that takes suspense and comedy and bloody violence and throws it all together into a semi-coherent but endlessly entertaining 80 minutes. The movie is full of characters with differences, and it highlights what those differences entail when they’re thrown into a bubbling pot of racial tension and flawed notions of justice. Tim Roth, playing a role Christoph Waltz would also be suited for, gives a monologue in the first half about justice versus frontier justice, and that becomes the foundation for the descent into bloody madness in the last few chapters. Yet, through a recurring Abraham Lincoln letter and a surprisingly poignant final scene, Tarantino injects some hope and connection into the plethora of conflicts.
But of course, conflict is key here, and nothing is comparable to watching all hell break loose in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
-Intermission, overture, and special program. Loved the experience.
-My screening had a few technical issues about 20 minutes in: the screen went black a few times, but it was eventually fixed.
-This is definitely one of the funniest Tarantino movies.
– “When you get to hell, tell ’em Daisy sent you.” You hear this line in the trailer, but nothing compares to hearing it in context. It’s absolutely badass, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
-John Ford, Agatha Christie, The Virginian, John Carpenter’s The Thing…once again, you can see the influences of other works throughout the entire movie. Also, great choice to bring on Ennio Morricone for the score.
-Happy holidays, everyone!
Photo credits: The Weinstein Company, The Hateful Eight