Tarantino’s longest single film is also his most self indulgent, which makes for a very entertaining ride.
Those familiar with Tarantino’s work generally fall into two categories: Those who love him, and those who hate him. It’s easy to understand both sides of that division. His movies are typically ultra-violent and offensive on multiple fronts. On the other hand, his manic love of movies is contagious, and his creations are incredibly unique. (albeit casseroles of his favorite scenes through history.) Say what you will about him, his dialog style is unparalleled. “The Hateful Eight” is sure to satisfy the preconceptions of all of Quentin’s lovers and haters.
The premise is simple enough, almost skeletal. A bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) is taking a criminal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to hang, but gets caught in snowstorm and must spend a few days stranded in a cabin with six other strangers. Is anyone who they say they are? Why is each person there? How many will make it out alive? Sound familiar? It bears a striking resemblance to Agatha Christie’s ‘Ten Little Indians’ with nods to at least a dozen other films. Again, this is where Tarantino shines. He takes the familiar and mashes it up with his own sick sense of humor, stylistic nods, and equal opportunity racism to create something new. The easiest way to sum up the film is a dark comedy of bad circumstances. So many characters are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong bedfellows. However when you consider how morally ambiguous the “good guys” are, you begin to question if it’s all circumstantial or some form of karmic retribution?
Tarantino again breaks up his movie into chapters, with the 70mm Roadshow edition including a 12 minute intermission. The first half of the film is entirely set up. We are introduced to the rest of the cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, & Demian Bichir) This may tedious to some, but the characters and visuals are so vivid it’s quite entertaining. After the intermission we’re treated to a quirky narration that clues the audience into a secret that kicks the final half into gear. It’s a perfect example of Hitchcock’s famous “bomb under a table” metaphor on creating tension with the audience. So perfect in fact, that we can feel Quentin winking at us during the narration.
The film is not without its flaws though. The entire movie is filled to the brim with ironic visual jokes, thematic winks, and near slapstick violence, that it’s clearly one big joke to Tarantino. If the audience isn’t in on the joke with him, then a large portion of the film doesn’t work. As beautiful as some shots are, three quarters of the film takes place in a cabin. With such a big deal being made over his revival of 70mm panavision, the choice to place most of the story inside a large closed room is questionable at best. One also has to ask if the joke extends to his use of 70mm as well? Consider that this isn’t a standard format, but anamorphic Ultra-Panavision, which requires special lenses normal 70mm projectors rarely have. A fully assembled platter for this film has been reported to weigh over 350lbs! Besides a handful of opening vistas, what does this format bring to the film? It will be interesting to see what comparison are drawn between the cinematography in this and “The Revenant ” which was filmed entirely in digital.