It's a cinema experience unlike any other. The Hateful Eight is the eighth film from writer-director Quentin Tarantino, and he's clearly still got it. Whenever he talks about this movie, he just gets giddy. It's a film that makes going to the movies an experience, not just something you do in your spare time. There's an overture, an intermission, a program, and it's projected on 70mm film, plus it's the first film to be made on Ultra Panavision lenses in quite a few decades. Take a seat, strap yourself in and get ready for Tarantino to take you on a journey you're going to want to go on. It's worth it.
The Hateful Eight follows the story of eight strangers who, during an intense blizzard, are forced to stay together in a remote and isolated cabin. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is a bounty hunter seeking a ride after the death of his horse. John Ruth (Kurt Russell), also known as the Hangman, is taking Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be executed, who as it turns out will be executed by Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth). Also with them is Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the newly appointed sheriff of the town they're all heading to, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy on his way home for christmas, Bob (Demián Bichir), the man temporarily in charge of the place they're staying at, and finally, there's General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), who fought on the opposite side of the civil war to Marquis Warren. It's eight dangerous and despicable people trapped in a room together. With Tarantino at the helm, anything goes.
Tarantino has never been known for holding back. Whether it's Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction or Django Unchained, he's always pushing the word "reasonable." His films are racist and sadistic, but never in a serious way. He knows it's wrong, but he also knows how much fun that sort of stuff can be when put into a movie, and trust me, it is. The Hateful Eight is a lot of fun. I can guarantee it won't be for everyone, and I'm positive there will be people so outrageously offended by this movie, but if you're looking for good old fashioned entertainment, it doesn't get much better than this.
Just as a technical achievement, The Hateful Eight is a masterpiece. It's the first film to use Ultra Panavision lenses since the 60s, and even back then, these lenses weren't commonly used. Most famously used in Ben Hur, Tarantino has finally brought them back out from their eternal slumber for one more shot at filmmaking, and it's glorious. Ultra Panavision lenses are the widest lenses available, and when you see the cinematography in this film, you'll know why. Even the close ups can fit two people into the shot. It's rather impressive and Tarantino uses them to the best of his ability, creating some down right stunning shots that you just can't see in any other movie.
Tarantino is having a ball here, and rightly so. His screenplay, an earlier version of which got leaked online a few years back, is all sorts of brilliant. The dialogue is witty, lengthy and never dull. Even during the first thirty minutes, which was much longer than it needed to be, it's always engaging. It's long, but it's hard to look away from. Then the blizzard happens, everyone is trapped, and the film steps it up a notch. It goes from a pretty good movie to a great one, and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had.
Like most of his movies, the laughs don't always come from the dialogue. The laughs, a lot of the time, came from the over the top violence. I don't wish the give away the film's best moments, but I will say that if you're a fan of Kill Bill, you won't be let down. There's this one scene in Kill Bill that features the bride taking on a hell of a lot of enemies and it's outrageously exaggerated in terms of gore. The Hateful Eight is that scene, but with less people and for three hours, and I loved it. It's Reservoir Dogs in the west.
Given the simplicity of the plot and the isolation of the location, The Hateful Eight is given a lot of time to develop these characters, and it also gives a lot of time to allow these actors to give some of the best performances of their careers. Jennifer Jason Leigh seriously steals this entire movie. She's not only the most interesting character in this entire film, but she gives the best performance, and that's not an easy task when you're acting alongside the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern and many others. But she does it, and she does it well.
There's not much else I can say about this movie without delving into spoilers, although I won't be doing a spoiler review. It's typical Tarantino. It's dark, violent and a lot of fun. It will offend some, it will delight others, but there's no denying just how well made it is. The roadshow release for this movie is everything I wanted it to be and more. Tarantino attempted to bring back the cinema of old and it works. I don't want this for every movie, but for special ones, such as The Hateful Eight, this format could work well. No matter what you think of this film, I have no doubt that everyone who sees this in its intended format will appreciate what Tarantino did. I know I appreciated it.
To sum up, The Hateful Eight is about as Tarantino as a Tarantino film can get. From his flawless dialogue to his sophisticated characters to his over the top violence, it's everything you want and more. It may be a bit slow, but it's a great movie going experience that I certainly recommend.
4 1/2 Stars