The Hateful Eight
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!