Review: Here comes Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film – a quintessence of his spaghetti western tendency and, mostly, a collection of all his cinematic wonders which serves as a kind of ‘greatest hits compilation’ in The Hateful Eight. By far, this second Western to QT’s universe is the most fun, enjoyable and digestible. Also, this one is possibly the film QT enjoyed most during the ‘troublesome’ making.
Entirely shot with 70 MM Ultra Panavision – which I wasn’t fortunate enough to enjoy (lucky those who watched it as it should have been projected; or at least got the correct aspect ratio on cinema), The Hateful Eight is set during a post-Civil War blizzard at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where the titular hateful eight people – plus one least hateful one (who doesn’t get counted) and one surprise hit one (who doesn’t get counted as well) got trapped. Staged like a Broadway play which is divided into 6 chapters, dominated with witty dialogues in a sense like a courtroom drama… without the boredom, it’s a slow-burning fun, which leads to an ultra-violent conclusion.
It all happens when Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson – finally got first billing), an ex-Union major plus the almost protagonist to this story, asked for a ride to John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), who was on the way to Red Rock to claim his bounty for a diabolical murder, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). On the same way, they met a self-claimed new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), before finally sheltered at Minnie’s, where 4 other people have waited: Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Bob (Demian Bichir), and an ex-Confederate General Sanford Smithers. Eight strangers in a room is a guarantee that the pact of peace is short-lived; before feuds and disbelief concludes that at least one of those people doesn’t reveal their true identity.
All characters are ‘grey’ and closer to evil or outlaw than a hero. Their personality and backgrounds are all dug out from convocations between each other; and surprisingly, those people are interrelated although not directly. The Western setting and post-Civil War timeline make it possible since most feuds are basically related to bounty hunting, stage-coach robberies, law enforcements, and reminiscent of the Civil War. I personally think: with The Hateful Eight, QT doesn’t merely make film for modern audiences and that’s a clever move. Some issues embarked in this claustrophobic western bonanza is some real deals to people of that era; although, some of them might still be connected to the modern issue, e.g., racism and law enforcing controversy as well as misogyny, those are pieces of conflicts addressed to viewers as if the viewers are from that era. To be able to accommodate it is a proof of Tarantino’s sharp wit and that’s cool.
Clocked in approximately 3 hours, patience is a key to The Hateful Eight. I, personally, have strong belief prior to watching this that this feature would be a western Reservoir Dogs; and I am correct to my own belief. What I failed to anticipate is that it’s not as explosive or as festive as any QT’s movies in terms of violence for at least half of the duration. The first body count comes after 90 minutes – the whole duration of bloody Reservoir Dogs – and that’s a bit of an ordinary; but that doesn’t justify the whole movie.
Tarantino makes it consistent as a part of his universe by adding details that might make connection to his other films (Red Apple cigarettes once again make a cameo). More consistently, the larger-than-life ensemble of casts of QT’s previous collaborators plus Jennifer Jason Leigh is definitely terrific. Samuel L. Jackson, a closest to protagonist to me, is not without moral flaws; his character is as ambiguous as the other, only more sympathetic. Yet, the screen-stealers at last appear to be: first, Jennifer Jason Leigh with nihilism in her expression and ambiguous look – which makes us thinking whether she’s truly evil or she’s just another victim – establishing her as a real diabolical bitch; and, second, Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix, whose ambiguity and fidelity is always on the blurred line.
Other consistencies that Tarantino attempts to convey is his belief that words could kill. I practically enjoyed everything since Ennio Morricone’s L’ultima Diligenza di Red Rock until the very end visually – in which Robert Richardson’s vast cinematography sweeps away the wild landscape of Wyoming and makes a large void in Minnie’s Haberdashery, but what I enjoyed most is basically the flow of the dialogues and its significance to the plot as in other Tarantino’s movies. Even the conflicts and the tension are dialogue-ridden.
If there’s something to criticize (but if I’m criticizing this, my whole claim to the film suddenly fails) is ‘Tarantino’s typical over-complicated plan/logic’ – most noticeable on Django Unchained (the whole Mandingo fighter buying scheme only to free Broomhilda). The main setup – which if I reveal will cost a major spoiler – is built upon an overly complicated plot, which might seem like a plothole, but since it’s Tarantino films, it’s not. Our simple, practical mind might find it distracting about the whole setup, but I acknowledge that such thought might also appear given some awry situation. Seemingly, Tarantino takes the ‘awry’ way, which might seem peculiar but somehow making sense.
Those who took it hard will think that The Hateful Eight might serve as a feel-good movie for Tarantino’s fans, which is okay. However, I personally enjoy every single signature and reference to Tarantino’s other films he put in this feature – establishing it as the most fun among other films he created previously.