Do you want to avoid spoilers for this movie? Then don’t read this.
Do you like Quenten Tarantino movies? If so, like me, you’ll probably enjoy this film while it’s happening... but then you’ll leave the theatre and start THINKING about it...
1st) Samuel L Jackson is always awesome. This is like a law of nature. He’s no disappointment here.
2nd) Kurt Russell is also awesome. He doesn’t sell the emotion quite as well as Mr. Jackson does, sometimes seeming to just recite his lines, but that actually WORKS for his character... he’s bitter and tired and paranoid yet slightly naive and maybe a little done with it all... he sounds that way.
3rd) Everyone else is pretty good, especially Walton Goggins, who even manages to be somewhat likable by the end, doing an admirable job of “redeeming” his rebel ass-hole character (even if, at times he comes across as a less-smart version of Boyd Crowder from Justified) , but they might as well have called the movie “Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Rusell recite lines from a Western in a closed room, and oh yeah, there are some other actors who are pretty good” That isn’t to say that I WOULDN’T watch a movie titled that way, it’s just more honnest.
4th) Super Panavision 70mm. More movies need to be filmed this way. The extra-wide aspect ratio is closer to the width of human vision, INCLUDING what I call the “conscious peripheral” meaning things that are outside your concentration, but clearly visible. This film makes the most of the wide view, and even when framing just an actor’s face (which is often the case) I found my eyes darting around the screen trying to take it all in, because there was more to see than just the eyes... or was there?
you see here’s the thing... The Hatefull Eight is ultimately a dirty trick played on the audience. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Russell and the others lull you into thinking you’re on top of it all. The Super Panavision 70mm keeps you alert and makes you think you are “paying attention” and “aware of what’s going on”, but this whole time what you thought might have been a Mystery, is just a hidden prank. The movie has teased you and led you along. Hell, even the chapter where Tarantino gets his customary bit appearance (this time, as a narrator),“Chapter Four: Domergue’s Got a Secret” it leads you on into thinking there is a mystery to solve, and there is in a way, and you probably knew the abstract answer way back when Major Warren (Jackson) didn’t call Bob the Mexican a liar in the barn.
You knew it was something like this, you saw it coming, you knew there was going to be a blood bath, it’s a Tarantino film, I mean what did you expect? But the problem I have with the Hateful Eight is that is doesn’t let you solve the mystery. It keeps too much hidden from the viewer then reveals all in the bloody throws of a gun battle, and you get to see people die in bloody, awful ways, which is fine. But how were you EVER going to guess that there was someone hiding in the basement? You never even KNEW there WAS a basement! This whole dog and pony show, the South vs. North angst, the monologuing, it’s all been the lead up to a shaggy dog joke, a Tarantino shaggy dog joke, where everyone gets shot, someone gets hanged, and the three people who died before, (one of being a Southern General that Major Warren had a beef with, and the other two of poisoning) were just collateral damage leading up to the gorefest. All this time we’ve just been waiting around for Tarantino to say “Surprise! Now everyone dies!”
Is the dialog great? Mostly, especially that which comes out of Samuel L. Jackson’s mouth. But most of it is just a distraction. If it’s trying to be a think piece about the hardships of blacks in the post civil war era it mostly fails by being too vulgar about it. Django Unchained succeeded better at this because it just threw all subtlety to the wind and ran with the O’l Ultraviolence. Here we wade through line after line of needless obfuscation for hours on end just to get a blood bath and a joke about a letter.
Is it well staged and shot? Most definitely.
Did I enjoy watching it? Yes I did. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant. The cinematography is top drawer, even when it’s cliche, and the blood bath is just as bloody and violent as you hoped for.
Is it a smart, grown up, award-worthy movie? No. No it’s not. And the level to which you’ll feel cheated after leaving the theater will almost entirely depend on your willingness to forgive the slow pacing, needless moments of pontification, and ultimately totally irrelevant side plot of North vs. South/Black vs. White for a satisfying blood bath where everyone who’s an awful person gets what’s coming to them, and even the sympathetic characters don’t make you sad when they die. Well, I did feel a little bad for O.B., Six-Horse Judy, Minnie, Sweet Dave, Gemma, Charlie and Ed, but they aren’t main characters, so... is it brilliant that we feel bad for characters with less than 5-minutes of screen time in a 3-hour long movie, or just another example of how the rest of it was only wasting time?