Besides the release of Star Wars, there was only one movie that I was looking forward to this December: The Hateful Eight. It was high on my radar since it was a Tarantino film, but also because he decided to shoot it on 70MM. I had a chance to see the movie at one the 70MM roadshows and was blown away. If you’ve never seen a movie shot on 70MM, you’ve haven’t really experienced the best quality that can achieved on a film reel. But visuals alone can’t drive a movie, so did Hateful Eight stand strong all the way through?
Here’s an interesting question: what happens when you put 8 people (technically 9, but who’s counting) in a cabin, trapped by a blizzard, with a bunch of guns, itchy trigger fingers, and plenty of reasons to shoot? You’ve just given Tarantino the right amount of chaos to have plenty of fun. It’s the question he posed to himself and his answer is very intriguing, with equal parts slightly predictable, straight out of left field, and the unique brand of Tarantino craziness.
Intense and interesting dialogue has always been a hallmark of a Tarantino film and again, Hateful is no exception. We spend a significant amount of time in that horse carriage you’ve seen in the trailers. Hired by John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) to transport himself and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), we see them pick up Union Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and supposed Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) on the way to Red Rock. You may be thinking how could a carriage ride be interesting, but trust me, it’s very engaging. And we get some excellent moments that will be used later to great effect. Yes, the first hour is the slow kind of build up that we are accustomed to, but when the caper takes off, it takes off.
The final film location is Minnie’s Haberdashery, where our gang of characters meetup with Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and Bob (Demián Bichir) and are forced to stay there until the blizzard clears up. John Ruth is obsessed with getting Domergue to her hanging and not having any interference. This plot point above all else gives us a reason to hear these different stories where we might not have a reason otherwise. Well, that and putting a Southern sympathizer- Mannix, Confederate General- Smithers, and Union soldier- Warren into the same room. It’s the same stick every single time in a Tarantino tension build up: You know everyone is sitting on a powder keg, but how will this keg blow up? Take the basement bar scene from Inglorious Basterds: You know there’s potential for the whole operation to go south. Since it’s going to happen, it’s still interesting to see how it transpires. Hateful is very similar to that scene in Inglourious Basterds except extend it to 3 hours, where the bar conversation takes up the first half. And the resolution in the last half is more chaotic than watching Hugo Stiglitz shoot a man’s nuts off.
Yeah, imagine that chaos extending over an hour, whew! It was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. When it was finally said and done, however, I was a bit disappointed. Similar to my thoughts on Django Unchained, I really felt like the end of that movie should have finished in the plantation. It’s like they wrote him into an impossible situation and needed a way to get him out. Hence, the entire last part of that film is him escaping and saving his wife. With Hateful, when Major Warren begins his interrogation, which was excellent by all accounts. The mess that accrues from that takes forever to resolve and leaves the last 15 to 20 minutes feeling pointless. For a 3 hour movie, you don’t have to cut everything. but it does require a keen idea to edit it down tighter. So, if you get a bit distracted or pulled out of the experience in the last chapter, you won’t be alone.
The performances are solid overall though there’s not one that really stands out. I enjoyed Jackson, Russell playing off of each other, with the addition of Tim Roth and Walter Goggins. Goggins is pretty hilarious as the suspected sheriff of Red Rock. I say suspected because I still don’t know if he’s actually the sheriff of Red Rock. If you watch the film, see if you can figure it out. The cast works very well together arguing the finer points of self-defense, recognizing a black man as a Union officer, and finally figuring out who’s in cahoots in Daisy Domergue. The interrogation scene is the signature moment of the film. Many of the key players, especially Major Warren and Mannix shine brightest in these scene and what transpires afterwards.
70MM is the best presentation of a feature film that you can honestly experience in your lifetime. You may argue with me, but digital simply hasn’t caught up to this classic film format. Tarantino has seriously done something pretty ambitious getting this done and having the support of the Weinstein brothers to get this done. I know how much of cinema nerd he is. You can check out Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson nerding out about the format:
Even as “glorious” as 70MM is, it was slightly wasted for most of this film. There were some excellent wardrobe choices that allow the crispness to shine through, but other than that, I was very disappointed. I should be clear that it looked amazing. However, when you want to show off a film format that hasn’t been used in 30 plus decades, it may be prudent to get some better scenery or locations. I can recall tons of recent scenes from Django Unchained, Kill Bill, or Inglourious Basterds that would have looked better on 70MM than Hateful. If you’ve never seen a film in 70MM, I would recommend something else for your first viewing. There have been better uses of 70MM like Ben Hur, Sound of Music, or how about Lawrence of Arabia? Dynamic and incredible shots that favor the format opposed to a horse carriage and log cabin.
Despite those minor issues, there’s one area where Hateful shines above all else: Ennio Morricone. He pumped out a soundtrack at 87 years old that rivals anything released in the last two decades. Seriously, I will fight you tooth and nail over this one. The overture sufficiently sets up the mode for the entire film just like it should. When it came on before the feature got started, it created this dark and brooding feeling to get us started. At that point, I wasn’t sure what we were in for, but I knew it was going to be intense from what I heard. The opening credits L’Ultima Diligenzia di Red Rock expound off the overture and keep up this feeling of dread. It plays exactly into what I described before: We know there’s a train wreck coming and we don’t know how it’s going to play out. But we do know it will be dark because of the musical cues. I would love to see Morricone get an Oscar nod for his work. It’s going to definitely stand out from the crowd this year and deservedly so.
Let’s talk about the violence in this one: It’s over the top and ridiculous, but it’s not what I consider gory because of how silly it is. It’s like the bloody scene where the Bride is chopping up the Crazy 88 left and right. Yeah, there’s a ton of it, but it’s so comical that you shouldn’t be overly concerned. I was a bit uncomfortable with the way Domergue was beaten up by John Ruth early on in the film. Honestly, that may have been the way he treated all of his prisoners, I just wasn’t a fan of it.
Tarantino’s latest lines up with his great history of filmography, but it doesn’t quite meet the legendary status of Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. It moves along at a great pace, but the 3 hour run time will scare some off when you get to the inflated final chapter. And for all the hype of 70MM, Hateful never really gets a chance to showcase like the massive sweeping shots like 70MM predecessors.
The Hateful Eight: 8 out of 10