THE HATEFUL EIGHT Review
Director: Quentin Tarantino
In three hours, Frodo left Bag End and made it almost halfway to Mount Doom. In the same span of time, Lawrence managed to conquer the entirety of Arabia in a sudden rise to fame. When this runtime is at Quentin Tarantino’s disposal, a handful of individuals shoot the living Hell out of each other inside a wintry Colorado cabin.
Tarantino has long been an artist of excess, fascinated by violence and consumed by meticulous attention to the technicalities of film form. Yet despite all this, he has also always been a filmmaker focused solely on style, sacrificing the originality of his work for further attention to the pastiche, exploitation cinema that serves to trademark his work as a director. With his eighth release, aptly titled THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Tarantino has finally turned the tables for himself, arguably crafting his least cinematic effort yet finally telling a story that feels personal and meaningful for America’s current socio-political climate, and wrapping the entire thing into a neatly packaged stage-play, all shot on glorious 70mm film.
“When will you admit LIKE A PRAYER is Madonna’s best album?”
By all accounts, THE HATEFUL EIGHT shouldn’t be a three hour experience boasting an overture and intermission. Devoid of spectacle, it’s interesting that Tarantino even chose this film to be his roadshow epic. Even the pamphlet handed out after the screening shows off that the last picture to have done this was BEN-HUR. And yet although the film is more contained than DJANGO UNCHAINED, KILL BILL, or PULP FICTION, its grand presentation allows for the film to flourish as an example of what a cinematic experience ought to be. Nonetheless, the absence of any real reason as to why THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a motion picture makes for some clunky scene breaks and results in a film that is mostly interior dialogue sequences, clumsily strung together with breathtakingly beautiful exterior montages.
Shooting on 70mm film was a decision that sounded pointless and typically excessive for Tarantino, especially when considering that pretty much the entire film takes place inside one building, and yet Tarantino captures a subtle elegance with his camera that easily holds its own to the spectacles of its contemporaries MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, SICARIO, and THE REVENANT. Slow, creeping dollies, gorgeous vistas, and fantastic use of slow-motion footage make for scenic shots that arguably trump the 2015 efforts of Lubezki, and although the film is never particularly cinematic in film form (especially when compared to Tarantino’s previous pictures), it’s still beautiful to behold.
The struggle of black and white
Tarantino’s writing in THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a mixed bag. The film is far more functional than DJANGO UNCHAINED, and it never feels like a three hour experience thanks to great performances and a strong knack for comedic timing, but that doesn’t make up for the film’s plodding opening (a scene that will apparently be omitted in the DVD release) and rather unnecessary flashback sequence. The casting is exceptional for the most part, although a character or two feel like cheap, one-note gimmicks, and Tim Roth comes across as Tim Roth doing his best Christoph Waltz. Tarantino’s need to incorporate himself into his work as a narrator during two utterly pointless scenes is distracting, lazy, and typically self-indulgent, yet thanks to all the other scenes that the actors absolutely nail, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is almost unrivaled pure entertainment for the awards season.
Where Tarantino hits, he hits hard and with full comedic force, and although it’s not his most elegantly created film, it’s still his most meaningful film to date, masking his commentary on race-relations under the guise of an Agatha Christie novel. That isn’t to say that the film is subtle (Hell, it’s Tarantino after all), but it’s a significant step in the right direction for a director who has long been attributed to making rather vapid entertainment, allowing for his ham-fisted rhetoric to make statements about what it means to be African American in the United States.
Hopefully we get to see the prequel where SLJ drags the bodies through the snow for three hours
Taking visual cues from his favorite horror films, most notably John Carpenter’s THE THING and DePalma’s CARRIE, and using Ennio Morricone’s score to emulate a horror film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a western-comedy-mystery that’s just a little too light on the mystery for viewers anticipating a compelling whodunit narrative. Nonetheless, the great character writing and the surprising “last person standing” makes for what is arguably Tarantino’s least predictable release. Ultimately, it will profit most from being performed on a stage, for despite the glory of 70mm projection, one would be hard-pressed to call its screenplay suitable for a motion picture. Yes, it’s excessive, and yes, it’s self-indulgent, but if viewers haven’t figured this out by Tarantino’s eighth release yet, they’re probably the ones to blame.