Review: The Hateful Eight

Like many guys my age, I adore Quentin Tarantino films. Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds are two of my favorite films of all time. Tarantino excels at building compelling stories and characters through dialogue alone.

The Hateful Eight is not an exception to this trend. In fact, this film has some of the best dialogue in any of Tarantino’s films. However, elements present in other films of his were not present in this one. Because of this, The Hateful Eight is probably the least enjoyable Tarantino film I have seen. Does that mean it wasn’t any fun to watch? Of course not, the film is still full of classic Tarantino humor and dialogue, which are the two redeeming elements of this film. That being said, let’s jump into the review.

 

Story: 6/10

This was, without a doubt, the least interesting story Tarantino has created. Nearly the entirety of the film takes place in “Minnie’s Haberdashery,” a small Inn in snowy Wyoming. The setting and characters would lead you to believe this is a classic Western, but I think Tarantino wanted it to feel more like Noir film, like the classic detective films of the 50’s. With that in mind, don’t expect to be doing any detective work of your own while watching this movie. Without having prior knowledge of the film’s story, it would be impossible to figure out what was actually happening on your own. Because of this, there are no jaw-dropping twists or surprising reveals towards the films climax. The twists/reveals that do exist seem forced and add confusion more than anything else. I took off 5 points for all of this, but added 1 bonus point for its ability to keep me interested throughout the entire 3 hour run time.

 

Acting: 9/10

Like Pulp Fiction, Sam Jackson steals the show. Jackson plays a former Union Cavalry Major and straight up bad mother-fucker that finds himself at the worst place during the worst possible time. Jackson’s performance is partnered by Walton Goggins as the “soon-to-be” Sheriff of Red Rock (not to be confused with Rock Ridge). Possible Spoiler-{ While Kurt Russel is excellent in the film, he is not in it long enough for me to consider him one of the main characters }-End Spoiler. With what few lines she has, Jennifer Jason Leigh is also great as the somewhat infamous Daisy Domergue. Once again, Tarantino’s dialogue shows that a great performance is not complete without excellent writing.

 

Cinematography: 8.5/10

Another thing that I’ve come to expect from Tarantino is great camera work. We are met with great landscape shots of the beautiful Colorado wilderness during the few moments the film takes us outside the Inn, and excellent wide shots inside the Inn. Like many of Tarantino’s films, there are specific suspense driven scenes that really stand out in terms of camera shots and movements. The Hateful Eight has several of these scenes, including my favorite that involves a guitar. However, because 90% of the film takes place in the somewhat boring setting of the Haberdashery, the shots can sometimes seem repetitive. Unfortunately, I was not able to see this film in either IMAX, or 70mm quality, which may have had a stronger effect on my score.

 

Music: 9/10

Again, we expect a great soundtrack and score in Tarantino films. The Hateful Eight is no exception to this rule. Ennio Morricone’s music is riddled throughout the film, and, as always, is a great fit for Tarantino’s style and tone.

Also, once again, Tarantino proves that he is a master of suspense, with music being one of the main elements of his suspense building. There are even moments when the music seems to do more to develop a character than the character themselves.

 

X-Factor: 2/10, Not Enough Christoph Waltz

In case that confused you; no, Christoph Waltz is not in the film. While that’s not really the point I actually want to make, I was disappointed that he didn’t actually make a cameo appearance or anything. The real point I want to make is that I believe The Hateful Eight suffered because of its premise. Tarantino is known for creating memorable characters that become cultural icons. He did this with Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, with Uma Thurman and David Carradine in Kill Bill, and especially with Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. I think the sheer amount of primary characters prevented this kind of character from emerging in this film. Because of this, the obvious star of the film was Tarantino’s Gore Fetish. This is arguably one of Tarantino’s goriest films, combining the cartoonish violence of Kill Bill with the gritty realism of Pulp Ficiton.

 

Overall: 7/10

While I enjoyed watching The Hateful Eight, and am recommending that all fans of Quentin Tarantino watch it, I think the film ultimately suffers from a lack of rewatchibilty. I know for a fact that I will not enjoy myself nearly as much as I did the first time upon viewing this film, which is not something I think is very common amongst his movies.

UPDATE: March 27th, 2016

I recently revisited this film with a group of friends who hadn’t seen it, despite my saying that I was not sure if they would enjoy it or not since I believed, at the time, that this was a film that only true Tarantino fans would be able to enjoy. I’m putting this update in because I noticed a few things in this post that I have recently found to be very untrue. If you happen to stumble back on this review, then you must realize how big this moment is… because… I’m admitting that I was wrong!

The Hateful Eight was a TON of fun to watch the second time around. For some reason, knowing all the twists and turns in the story enabled me to really focus on what I know are the positives of this movie, which is the characters and their banter between each other. It was hilarious! Because I knew that film’s story starts declining towards the end, I was able to enjoy the other aspects of the film more thoroughly this time around.

I also noticed that the X-Factor I choose is also wrong. The relationship between Samuel L. Jackson’s character and Walton Goggins is the best part of the film, not to mention Sam’s character on his own. When I revisited the film, I found myself laughing nearly every time on of these characters spoke. Quentin Tarantino truly is a master of dialogue in this day and age.

In conclusion, I was wrong… The Hateful Eight is a very re-watchable film and I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. I think the reason for my harshness when I first saw the film came from how uninteresting I thought the overall story was. Do I think differently of the story now? No, not really. But I think, upon re-watching the film, that I realized that Tarantino’s own focus was not the overall story, but the characters themselves. In the past, his movies have been character driven as well, but it usually ends up creating a very interesting and unique story. This film was different in that aspect.

So now, I must give the film an adjusted score.

Overall: 7.7/10

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