I intended this post to be done almost immediately after I saw the film on Christmas Day with my family (something I regret less than I feared I would, considering my mom is not a Tarantino fan), but when my in-laws visited I got busy contracting a bit of cabin fever, thankfully there was no blood shed off screen. Now this post is spoiler-free, with my spoilery post coming soon, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, feel free to read on.
When someone asked me on Facebook what I thought of the film I told them that I thought cinephiles would love it, but that the bulk of Tarantino fans would find it both long and lacking. And this is basically where I find myself.
Now, most Tarantino fans love him because they’re either fans of his style or they’re fans of the cinema and love to see reminders of quality films and classics grace the screen. Hateful Eight is a horse of a different color because it’s a movie that I think separates the cinephiles from the fan boys (or girls, considering my reaction)
On the underwhelming side of things, it felt like this film was a mashup of Reservoir Dogs (which I enjoy) with Django Unchained (which did not live up to my expectations, because of how much I LOVED Inglourious Basterds). And that in and of itself made the film seem a bit superfluous. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Tarantino (Kill Bill Vols 1 & 2 are unlikely to ever be films that I don’t adore above MANY others). He’s a deliberate director, who makes every scene into eye candy, whether it’s with props, style or the common homages to films past (which is where Hateful Eight draws strength, and I’ll get to that). Because it’s the kind of filmaking I’ve come to expect from Tarantino, it means that I start considering phrases like “Horse of a different color” from the opening scene, where a horse drawn carriage has four horses, but only one of them white. What catches my attention with that is (and yes I have been known to over think scenes) two things. First that things are not simply black and white, and that he immediately creates an environment where what you look like is far less important than what you’re capable of and if you can survive (for more on this see the spoilery post when it’s up and you’ve seen the movie). He also has a knack for dialogue, both when things should be said outright and when things can remain unspoken.
The dialogue definitely makes this movie watchable, where any other director of the day (save for maybe Joss Whedon or Wes Anderson) might lose an audience when so much of the film lacks action and needs what the characters say (or don’t say) to carry the film. Of course a lot that is because of the actors. Walton Goggins was (unsurprisingly considering his awesomeness in Justified) the best part, and I couldn’t get enough of him.
There was one scene in particular that I definitely got enough of, because this is Tarantino and to say he likes to push the envelope is an understatement, but it was a scene that just wasn’t needed.
Back on the actors though, Jennifer Jason Leigh was also awesome, and I thought she was perfect for the role. And to any who said that Tarantino was misogynistic for how her character was treated, you clearly didn’t pay attention to the movie. Now I know that some will say that violence against women is never acceptable.
However, given the time and circumstances, her character Daisy Domergue was treated EXACTLY like a man would have been under the circumstances, and she earned every smack with snark.
I guess the best thing I can compare this movie to is an ice cream sundae. It tastes delicious, but when you have one that’s too big then you wish you’d had a few less bites.
The cherry on top though (and this is where cinephiles, as I mentioned will enjoy things) is how carefully Tarantino helps you to feel the films inspirations by crafting scenes that hearken back to films like The Thing, with open yet claustrophobic blizzard shots, 12 Angry Men, and even Twilight Zone episodes, one of my favorites in particular “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up”.
Finally, it should go without saying, the cinematography and use of the 70 mm was gorgeous and if the homages were a cherry on top the 70 mm presented the sundae in beautiful crystal bowl, and if anyone’s watched food network yes, presentation matters.
So, all in all it was worth watching especially in the theater, but due to the length it’s not necessarily a film I’ll spend a lot of time re-watching like I do with Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.