The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film and with it he has dipped his toe in the lesser explored ‘Snowy Western’ genre for the first time in his career. He did the genre justice with a strong offering but one could be forgiven for leaving the theatre feeling decidedly underwhelmed.
The best way to review this film is to take it as a two-parter. This is because the first and second portions of this picture are so vastly separate in their direction that to speak on both at the same time would be an exercise in redundancy. It also helps that these two parts are separated by a short intermission.
It should also be noted that there is a huge gulf in quality between the different parts of this film. The first is best described as an overly long, tediously drawn out festival of forced dialogue and underwhelming character development. Of course it is widely known that Tarantino films are always going to be dialogue heavy and that this is typically a great thing as he has a true knack for the art. One just has to look at the exquisite opening scene to Inglorious Basterds, perhaps one of the greatest opening sequences of all time, to know just what this man can do with words. Further evidence is provided with extremely quotable lines in the majority of his films such as “I like the way you die, boy.” In Django Unchained, and “Say ‘What’ again.” In Pulp Fiction.
With that said this films first half provides precious little in the way of quotable lines and it seems unlikely that anything, other than a wildly funny speech by Samuel L. Jackson, will stay on the minds of those who see this movie. The almost never ending diatribes feel self-indulgent this time out, as though Tarantino has bought into his own hype and just decided to spit out ninety pages of script without having anything much happen.
Now it should be recognised that a lot of this is used to build up future revelations and to flesh out the characters but only some of what is said does this, the rest is space filler and blindingly obvious filler at that.
It isn’t all bad though as the cinematography is excellent with beautiful snowy surroundings used to the fullest of their potential in a way that enhances the story and the cinema-going experience to no end by creating a truly immersive experience. You will feel, at times, as though you too are lost in a cold, desolate landscape and that is something that most movies simply are not capable of. As a director, Tarantino has really done himself proud with flawless attention to detail and inspired choices with regards to the way his characters move and act.
The ending of the first half is where business picks up and you start to feel as though you are in good Tarantino movie for the first time. The long speech given by Samuel L. Jackson (playing Major Marquis Warren) weaves a rich and compelling story that draws attention back to what is happening on the screen. You will find yourself transfixed as he weaves his words and you get the first pay off of the movie.
After this there is the break for intermission which is thankfully short and then it’s straight back to it. Interestingly, despite the story picking up right where it left off, it changes in tone straight from the off and takes on the mystery that was promised in the promotional material.
It is in this second half that everything good and memorable about this movie happens and it will certainly please both Tarantino fans and non-fans alike.
The dialogue is edgier and delivered with more gusto. The humour flows more freely as all of the actors involved show their versatility through transitioning between emotions and themes with ease. Most important though is the fact that the violence so many came to see is introduced and nothing is left on the table this time.
Some have criticized the film for its excessive violence but that is just to be expected at this point when it comes to a Quentin Tarantino film. He is not known for holding back and truly nor should he be expected to, he portrays this over the top bloodshed in a way that no other director is capable of doing and in doing this he creates a must see spectacle for his audience. Regardless of your opinion of violence in the media you have to be at least a little impressed with how it is done in such a wanton, gleeful, and at times oddly beautiful manner in this man’s hands.
As for the story itself it kicks into a totally different gear and it is wholly more interesting that what preceded it. There is more gravity to what is going on and you will be on the edge of your seat just waiting to see who is the guilty party and to find out what the fate of your favourite character is to be. There isn’t a dull moment and that more than makes up for so many dull moments in the first half.
The real thing to write home about here though absolutely has to be the incredible performance by Samuel L. Jackson. This isn’t to take anything away from the rest of the cast, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Tim Roth all put in fantastic work but the shining star of the piece is Jackson. He becomes his character and you truly feel that you are no longer watching a man act out a script but that you are instead seeing Major Marquis Warren work his way through an incredibly tough situation. This has to be considered a career highlight for Jackson as he turns in what may well be his best performance to date. If it weren’t for him this movie wouldn’t have been half the delight that it ended up being.
In the end The Hateful Eight serves as a perfectly strong foray into Western’s for Tarantino but it lacks the enjoyment that most got from Django Unchained. Whilst it does do an admirable job of paying tribute to classic movies, such as Il Grande Silenzio, it does not do an effective enough job of carving out its own niche in the cinema landscape. It just feels as though everything in this film has been done before by Quentin himself and has been done better. This is still a very good movie but it is not his finest work and does not require a second viewing.
Score: 6.5 out of 10.