Monday, December 28, 2015

The Hateful Eight Film Review

by The Wanderer

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, Walter Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen
MPAA Rating: R
Length: 187 Minutes (Roadshow Version) 167 Minutes General Release

Somebody Still Cares!

The Hateful Eight is classic Tarantino: bountiful amounts of slowly building tension, intense and oftentimes politically incorrect dialogue, a twisted sense of humor, and graphically violent resolutions. The nods to old films are there, especially with the cinematography, while the use of post-modern storytelling techniques still give this film a modern feel that should satisfy most of who've come to love the director's filmmaking.

In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is riding a coach to Red Rock to claim the bounty on his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh).  Ruth picks up two additional passengers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) another bounty hunter who prefers to kill his targets and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) a man who claims he's going to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock.

A fast approaching blizzard forces the four passengers and their coach driver O.B. Jackson (James Parks) to seek shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery. Upon entering they are met by the quiet cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), the innkeep Bob the Mexican (Demian Bichir), a retired Confederate commander (Bruce Dern), and by the hangman of Red Rock Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth). Forced to spend the night together, Ruth becomes convinced that one these men he's sharing the cabin with is going to try and steal his bounty.

It's hard not to feel the hatred in this movie, most of which is expressed through racism. Often and loud, these outbursts are so politically incorrect that it allows the film to create a level of tension that's rarely seen in modern films.  Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of Warren with a vindictive sense of righteousness, and Walter Goggins's portrayal as the Sheriff with a heavy accent of redneck serve up some of the most humorous bits of dialogue. These two are still able to turn it down for some of the most intimate and personal scenes in the movie, too. Jennifer Jason Leigh doesn't get too much to say in the early going, but her facial expressions make up for that, and are amongst the most disturbing parts. All of the actors deliver fantastic performances, even Channing Tatum, who makes a brief but memorable appearance.

There are two versions of The Hateful Eight being released. The early release includes an extra twenty minutes of footage, and is only being screened at theaters that can handle the glorious 70mm footage. There are less than hundred of these theaters in the U.S. (A list of those theaters can be found here).

70mm isn't widely used anymore, and the type of 70mm camera Tarantino is using (the Ultra Panavision 70) for The Hateful Eight, is even rarer. This camera boasts an aspect ratio of 2.76:1 allowing it to capture very wide landscapes as well as highly detailed close-up shots. Tarantino specifically focuses on the latter more than the former, but that's not to say he didn't squeeze in a few huge landscape shots. The 1966 film Khartoum was the last film to use one of these cameras, and the cameras used in the making of this movie - and I mean the specific literal cameras - were used to make Ben Hur ... they were literally dug up and refitted to deal with the lovely snowstorms of the Colorado Rockies.

Another major moment of note is Tarantino's use of original film music, something he is notorious for avoiding by his use of temp scores. While there are plenty of scenes that use music that wasn't originally written for this movie - including a particularly hilarious sequence featuring Silent Night -  Tarantino finally realized a life long dream by collaborating with one of the greatest film composers ever, Ennio Morricone. The original music is surprisingly unconventional by the composer's usual standards. There are less of the catchy melodies, and instead there's a focus on creating tension through slow moving dissonant harmonies.

The Hateful Eight has a very distinct Western flavor to it. I found myself likening the movie to The Magnificent Seven, at least in the loose sense of the Magnificent Seven all deciding not to work together and kill each other instead. A more palpable likening could be to Tarantino's own Reservoir Dogs ie this being the Western version of that. Although there are similarities to previous movies, this is still a work that's able to stand on its own. If you're fortunate enough to be near a theater that can screen 70mm film, definitely go see it there.

Score: 9.5

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