The Hateful Eight is beautifully shot in 70mm, well-acted, expertly directed, relentlessly brutal and a bit underwhelming.
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film has all the hallmarks we’ve become accustomed to from the idiosyncratic auteur: finely-tuned dialogue, crescendoing super violence, non-linear storytelling, and black comedy -all of which are wrapped together within what is undoubtedly his most gorgeous film. Shot in 70mm Ultra Panavision, the sheer width of the frame is astounding at moments, and even when the action settles inside a single room for the last 2+ hours of the film, each shot has a certain inimitable warmth to it that just can’t be matched by digital.
After the initial hour of snow-covered travel, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and alleged future sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) end up spending the night in an outpost along their route: Mimi’s Haberdashery. It’s here where the film settles in and we meet the remaining cast which includes: Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir. Tarantino expertly unravels each mystery slowly enough to keep the audience on its collective toes – the threat of death is permeable in the air at every moment. Many of the scenes that work are very well-staged and set-up, but at 3 hours and 2 minutes long, the film does drag a bit at times. Perhaps unsurprisingly -given the cast- there is not a poor performance in The Hateful Eight. Russell, Jackson and Roth are great, but the standout performances in the film are undoubtedly, Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Goggin’s sometimes cocky, sometimes innocent and neurotic take on Chris Mannix adds a level of tension to the film as a whole and the arc of his character is the most interesting of the eight. Leigh is beautifully unhinged, deranged and scrappy as Daisy Domergue the allegedly murderous prisoner of Russel’s John Ruth. Leigh’s Domergue is the most terrifying character in a film filled to the brim with them.
While The Hateful Eight is not Tarantino’s most violent film in terms of body count by any means, it very well may be his most brutal. Death in The Hateful Eight is more of a slow, visceral, slog through rivers of blood than quick moments of over-the-top combat. This is Tarantino at his most indulgent, and it’s his most straight-forward B-movie western -which, in the end made the overall experience of the film a bit thiner than many of his previous efforts. The Hateful Eight is not a bad film in any regard, but when compared with his other seven films, the purposeful lack of depth here distances one somewhat from the story of the film and its characters. And while there is not an overtly bad scene in the film, the pacing could’ve been amped up a bit -this story could’ve been told more succinctly if 20 or so minutes were cut. But, with all of that said, I am very glad we have auteurs like Tarantino that continue to be uncompromising and wonderfully self-indulgent. The film is expertly shot by longtime collaborator Robert Richardson and superbly scored by the incomparable Ennio Morricone.
Bottom Line: It’s a beautiful film that is well-directed, acted, staged and scored but is hampered somewhat by its intentional lack of depth and its extended running time.
by Jesse Mechanic