The Hateful Eight

2015 Western

Rating: 17/20 (Dylan: 14/20)

Plot: A pair of bounty hunters, a town's new sheriff, a murderous bitch (the movie's word--not mine), a guy who likes his mother, a Mexican named Senor Bob, a pompous Englishman, a confederate general, and a stagecoach driver all walk into a haberdashery.

First, I'm not sure about the "8" in the title. The least amount of people involved in these spaghetti Western shenanigans is nine, I believe.

Tarantino doesn't put himself and his annoying chin in this movie, but he does throw in narration twice. That was one thing I didn't like about this movie. I also thought that there might be some fat that could have been cut out. I like lethargically-paced movies, especially if they're Westerns or samurai movies, however, and loved how Tarantino gave everything a chance to breathe. It builds gradually, tension mounting maybe more because you know it's a Quentin Tarantino movie and that all of the characters would likely end up dead or maimed. Like the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill: Volume 1, you know this hateful eight ain't getting out of that haberdashery with all their limbs. When spurts of violence begin, it's the orgy of gore you're expecting from Tarantino. There are moments when you feel like reaching for a handkerchief to wipe blood off your face. There are loads of blood. The violence, though expected, is shocking and brutal if you're into that sort of thing.

The majority of the movie isn't focused on violent acts--more violent thoughts. The majority of the movie is dialogue driven, and it's also what you'd expect from Tarantino--verbose, witty, somehow simultaneously authentic and anachronistic. Did characters right after the Civil War really say "motherfucker" this much? As with a lot of his movies, its a perfect marriage of great performances and great writing. It's a great ensemble, and most of the characters get their moment to stand out. Samuel L. Jackson is as good as I've seen him, weathered and wise and as tough as Samuel L. Jackson gets. His moment is a story he tells to the confederate general, a story that might be completely true or might be completely fictional or might be a little bit of both although it hardly matters. That confederate general is played quietly by Bruce Dern who is terrific in a role he plays almost entirely from a chair. Dern's got to be the go-to guy in Hollywood when you need an old coot. Kurt Russell's the loudest character and gets some of the best lines, and chained to Kurt Russell for almost the entire movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh who gives what's very close to a perfect performance as that murderous bitch. She's abused but forever feisty, and it's her facial expressions and gesticulations that build this character into a woman you'll absolutely love to hate. Walton Goggins is electric as the new sheriff of Red Rock, perpetually grinning like a dumbass and always on the verge of being shot at because he can't close his mouth. Michael Madsen is kind of who he always is in these movies, probably because all of his characters are supposed to be related, Tim Roth manages to sort of play a pair of characters and does it very well, and James Parks is great as that stagecoach driver. Oh, and Demian Bichir gets to have some fun as "Senor Bob." It's just a terrific cast, and they chew on the scenery just enough. They're actors who know they've been given special characters and special dialogue and let it work. And it just works.

Speaking of the scenery, this pretty much has three settings. You've got blizzardy mountains that recall great classic Westerns with jagged backdrops and flakes of snow. You've got the inside of the stagecoach where the first chapter or two take place. And you've got the haberdashery, dilapidated but warm, a place you know is going to wind up soaked in blood. All of them are filmed beautifully by cinematography Robert Richardson who's worked with Tarantino on his last five movies. I maybe expected this to be more grand with all this 70-millimeter talk, but I'm not complaining about anything I saw. It was ominous when I need to be, gorgeous when it needed to be, and claustrophobic when it needed to be.

Maybe I'm just a Tarantino fanboy--though honestly, there's something kind of annoying about him as a person--but when I watch these movies, it's almost like I'm watching our era's Shakespeare, movies that will stand the test of time and, even though they're really just entertainment for the masses, will always be considered true art, head and shoulders above his contemporaries. This one's no exception. Set against a violent time in American history right after our most violent time, it's really turning the mirror on contemporary times. I've not digested exactly what this says about race relations and politics in our time, but I know there are connections to be made. And when a movie has something to say about society and can still be very funny, very suspenseful, very mysterious, and very horrific, that movie is really doing something special.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Ennio Morricone's gorgeous score! I loved it, especially the opening piece which was repeated in Chapter Five. Just so good!


Josh said...

I'll have more to say later when I'm not limited to my phone, but I had to breath a huge sigh of relief when you finally mentioned the score at the very last! That was hands down my favorite thing about this Tarantino film. He's never had an original score before, and I thought this was one of the most iconic I've heard in a long while.

Josh said...

Honestly, for me, this wasn't his best film. Of all his movies, I think this one is in the bottom half. I don't know if we've ever ranked QT's movies before, but here's my off-the-cuff ranking:

1. Pulp Fiction
2. Django Unchained
3. Jackie Brown
4. Reservoir Dogs
5. Kill Bill 2
6. Kill Bill 1
7. Hateful 8
8. Inglorious Basterds

I could flip those first few around a spot or two, but that's pretty much how they've resonated for me as I've seen them over and over. I have solid reasoning for each to be better than the other, so we can haggle over that anytime.

But as for this one, I just didn't feel like the story was as solid as the others. Really, this was a super simple story just told decently well by the dialogue, the camera, and the actors. I kept waiting for there to be a bigger "Aha Moment" (thank you signposts) or revelation or turning point. I loved that it was a just wasn't a very good one. I felt just like Jackson's Major Marquis, I know something messed up is going on, I just can't nail it down specifically. When the story finally did reveal itself, it just felt too simple. I guess I don't really know what I was expecting or how I could have made it better, but it didn't feel fully satisfactory.

What did fit into place was the acting. Jackson, Russell, Goggins, and Leigh could all pick up acting trophies and I think it would be well-deserved. They knew how to take the story from beat to beat so well. They had a lock on every line and delivery. Obviously the other supporting cast did terrific as well.

The cinematography was beautiful. As good if not better than Django Unchained landscapes. Of course, this movie's setting was a character in and of itself, so it had to speak a little more...and it did.

Finally, the score is what bumped this movie up for me. The mood was set with the shot of the crucifix and the low bellowing of those strings and woodwinds. I hope it wins the Oscar for best score.

Shane said...

Interestingly enough, those were similar to my feelings until I started writing about the movie.

It's a Western. Now your average spaghetti Western is pretty convoluted (closer to Django's plot structure) but most Westerns are pretty simple stories. Watch some of the best--Shane, Stagecoach, Searchers. They're simple and better for it because you can focus on the characters.

I'll make a Tarantino list. We have the same film at the top (it's easily a top ten for me) but I like Basterds a lot more than you? Have you not seen Death Proof? It's almost worthless and has my bottom spot. All the others could be shuffled around depending on the day. Actually, I'd have trouble ranking the ones I've only seen once, like Django and Basterds.

Read my review of Basterds if you get a chance. My interpretation, if totally wrong, is at least interesting. I think.

Shane said...

Read the comments, too. I'm probably more coherent talking about the movie with Cory.