What better way to spend your Christmas than watching a beautifully shot, diabolically funny, and cartoonishly violent showcase of racism, mystery, and crossing of line? You guessed it - I'm talking about Quentin Tarantino's latest film and while none of the aforementioned adjectives set his latest film, The Hateful Eight, apart from any of the visceral director's others, his 8th film does stand firmly on its own two feet (for a long time).
What starts with a 10-minute overture (which literally just reads "OVERTURE" across the screen for its first half) and opening credits, quickly turns into an entertaining ride with colorfully written, acted and eventually slain characters. The film takes on the classic form of story telling, literally, with chapters and an intermission separating each major moment. It's refreshing and allows us to take a moment to comprehend just what the heck is actually going on - and there's a lot going on. Tarantino builds the mystery of Hateful Eight, most of which takes place in only two locations throughout the entire 3 hour plus run in a carriage and Minnie's Haberdashery during an inescapable blizzard. Before you may realize it, the eight have assembled, and it's time for them to start falling like dominoes.
Any time a character perishes it is a true loss, not only because we're sad to see certain characters go, but also because almost every actor in this film delivers a performance to be admired. Samuel L. Jackson may not be doing anything we haven't seen before by spewing curse words, opening one eye wider than the other, and delivering chilling monologues but still, his performance Major Marquis Warren in The Hateful Eight is absolutely captivating. Mixed with Kurt Russell's fluffy mustached John Ruth and Walton Goggins' Chris Mannix, the three male stars shine in the Tarantino bloodbath.
Jennifer Jason Leigh needs to be praised after this one, too. Her Daisy Domergue doesn't even need to talk in order to spice up the film with twisted insanity. When she does get moments to open up later in the film, Leigh drives home the vicious tone of Hateful Eight in bloody good fashion. Everything in the movie was clicking until Channing Tatum showed up which most viewers will be waiting on after his name gets a solo mention at the end of the opening credits. His southern accent in painfully distracting and can't compete with the caliber of acting delivered from the other co-stars of the film.
An expected complaint from this film will be its length, however, had it been an hour longer, that would've been great. The story is told in its entirety and each character gets their moments to develop and reveal their true colors. It's hard to remember the last time a movie felt this organized while being all over the place at the same time. Tarantino masterfully places bits of information and plot points from each character to keep us guessing just who wants to set Domergue free and gives certain mysteries, like, "Who poisoned the coffee?" a classic feel and proper investigation.
It's no secret Tarantino has a twisted sense of humor. 2013's Django Unchained offered up a handful of laughs while dealing with a difficult topic in slavery and bouncing the N-word around like a basketball at a YMCA. Though Hateful Eight takes place in a newly-post-slavery age in the U.S., that doesn't mean it uses any less racist dialogue than it's preceding Tarantino film. It, at times, feels quite unnecessary but somehow, degrading all races equally is part of what drives Tarantino's film.
Just in case violence has become too trivial in today's cinema, Tarantino ensures to have a scene controversial enough to stir up stomachs and conversation and it actually doesn't involve any violence, this time. Rather, the scene involves a grotesque depiction of some interracial homosexuality which Samuel L. Jackson narrates using a colorful word selection pulled from a 1800's style urban dictionary. Though brutal and explicit in its manner, this nor any other moments feel quite out of place in the Tarantino film with ends up painting its cast red by the end of the film as we all expect.
The continuous shots for monologues and brilliantly lit set are truly entertaining. However, it's the care Tarantino put into every single shot, including one of the final moments which is a two shot on a pair of characters quite distant from one another but still close and in-focus for the frame, that earns The Hateful Eight a spot on the pedestal. Had the film had any form of traditional cinematography, sitting through three hours of it would've made the experience significantly less valuable. The fantastic character acting is truly polished by the lighting and camera teams this time around.
Bottom Line: The Hateful Eight contains the traditional Tarantino values of racism, violence, and controversy but sets itself apart with brilliant cinematography and classic, mysterious story-telling. 8.0/10