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The real stars of Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, The Hateful Eight, are Tarantino’s signature dialogue and meticulous shot choices. He is one of the few directors in existence with enough fame and critical acclaim to sell tickets on his name only, and his films usually evoke only two specific emotions, love or hate. However you may feel about his films, you will never leave the theater bored. This is no exception.
Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting convicted murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) via stagecoach to Red Rock so she that she can be hanged for her crimes. There is a horrible blizzard and Ruth encounters two stranded men, Major Mark Warren and Chris Mannix (Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins), looking for a ride. Soon after, madness ensues.
The first hour and a half of this movie contains a lot of character development for these three men, and in Tarantino’s world, that means a lot of dialogue. The banter between the characters is fun, of course, but unless you are a Tarantino disciple, you may feel that it goes on a tad too long. It is almost as if Tarantino wants us to give up trying to figure out the plot because he is not ready to tell us yet. We have a good sense of who the first three characters are after about the first fifteen or twenty minutes, so an hour of their casual conversation in a stagecoach is definitely not for the impatient.
Essentially this film is a whodunit that takes place entirely inside a saloon named Minnie’s Haberdashery. After meeting the saloon’s current inhabitants, (Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern) and a series of unfortunate events, we soon learn that one of the men inside the saloon may be involved in helping Daisy escape. It’s wonderfully tension filled as they try to figure out which of the men is the culprit. But the answer is completely revealed during one of the film’s five chapters. It makes all the deducing and reasoning that the audience has been doing for the last two hours seem a little useless.
Tarantino has publically declared several times that he shot The Hateful Eight is 70 mm using the same lens. It serves to help aged look and tone of the film, but again, unless you are a Tarantino disciple, you are not really going to notice it. The details of the saloon are immaculate and fully on display in the background, and it makes you feel like you are sitting right in the saloon with the rest of the patrons. But in today’s mostly digital film world, could the same effect be used with a digital camera and some great shot framing?
The performances without question, are outstanding especially that of Samuel L. Jackson and the criminally underrated Walton Goggins. All the actors are at the top of their games, but those two really anchor the film. There is also an important cameo, which I will not spoil, that also deserves extreme honorable mention.
Overall The Hateful Eight is enjoyable, particularly the second half. If you are not a huge Tarantino fan and you have seen a couple of his past films (Inglorious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs, etc.) there is nothing groundbreaking that Quentin is doing here. It is a well-crafted, beautifully shot, skillfully acted film, and pending that you stick around until the end of the film, you will enjoy it. But it’s not one of Tarantino’s best and he should try something a little different from him next time.