Hateful Eight Movie Review
A new Quentin Tarantino movie is always an event for film lovers. Love him or hate him, his knowledge of movies is second to none and his films are always full of movie history and references. They are also made with great care. I’m a huge Tarantino fan, so I was very excited to see his new movie, The Hateful Eight.
This movie almost didn’t get made. After the script leaked, the project was threatened to be shelved indefinitely. It would be a shame, as there is much to like about this movie, which I’ll discuss in the “Pros” section. However, I did take issue with a few aspects of the film, which prevents it from rising too highly in my list of favorite Tarantino movies.
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As I mentioned, like any Tarantino movie, The Hateful Eight has a lot going for it. The below has a light spoiler under “That one scene,” so be forewarned.
- The acting. As always, Tarantino is able to get stellar performances from his ensemble cast. Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson stand out as my favorites in the movie. Their performances are pitch perfect and I enjoyed their characters the most. Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth are also excellent in their roles, though I didn’t like their characters quite as much. Lucky for the audience, Tarantino himself reduces his role to voiceover only. His casting of himself is always the weak point of his films so I was glad to see him staying mostly behind the camera. I won’t say that all the performances were perfect; there was a flashback scene in which the acting was serviceable, not stellar.
- The script/dialogue. Tarantino is the king of dialogue. Hands down. This film is no exception. Each character has his/her own voice, and the fact that Tarantino has been able to create so many memorable characters for so long is a tribute to his screenwriting ability and his mastery of sharp dialogue.
- The atmosphere. The Hateful Eight takes place in one basic location: A cabin in Wyoming during a blizzard. If that sounds claustrophobic, it is. The tension is built up to a fever pitch in two ways: First, by emphasizing the trapped nature of the cabin dwellers with shots of the blizzard and the broken, nailed door. Tarantino’s decision to show the road to the cabin to build up the oncoming storm was a brilliant choice. The shot of the exterior path to the outhouse after the blizzard hit was also key to understanding the claustrophobic nature of the situation. The second way the atmosphere is built is with the interactions/chest beating between characters who clearly hate each other. These characters are stuck in a cat-and-mouse game, except they’re all cats. The viewer can really feel the sense of extreme tension.
- The music. Ennio Morricone once again delivers an impressive score. My favorite track is a song called Bestiality that was originally supposed to be included in John Carpenter’s The Thing. (Another Kurt Russell movie.) Right off the bat, the viewer is treated to an ominous shot of the cross with the extremely creepy music playing over it. It’s a perfect opener to set up the horror to come. I’ve embedded the song below for your convenience.
- That one scene. If you’ve seen the film, you know the one. I won’t ruin it here, but Samuel L. Jackson is the king of taunts in this movie. He tells a very disturbing story just to provoke an old, racist Confederate soldier into a fight. It’s handled brilliantly.
There’s a lot to love about The Hateful Eight, but it has flaws which were enough to put it pretty low on my list of favorite Tarantino movies. (It’s still a Tarantino movie, however, which ranks it higher than most of the junk Hollywood spews every year.) Please note the payoff is spoiled below so if you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to skip this section, go watch it, then come back.
- The editing. Sally Menke was Tarantino’s editor until Inglorious Basterds. I think she deserves a lot more credit on the films than she gets because her work only becomes clear after she’s gone. Unfortunately, she passed away before working on Django Unchained. While I still greatly enjoyed Django, parts of it dragged on and it didn’t seem as “tight” as previous efforts. The Hateful Eight is an even bigger offender. The movie is almost three hours long and it didn’t need to be. A couple scenes were redundant for building the tension and the plot and could have easily been trimmed. I’m thinking specifically of the scene in which the rope to the outhouse is put up. It does nothing to progress the plot or tension; we already know a blizzard is coming and the characters don’t really interact. The Hateful Eight is long, and it feels long. (Bonus: I’ve embedded a clip of Tarantino’s actors saying hello to Sally Menke in between takes. If you’re like me and you enjoy the behind the scenes stuff, it should put a smile on your face.)
- The backstory. After the shit hits the fan, and the audience learns who is the culprit, Tarantino cuts to a backstory scene in which Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Channing Tatum arrive at the cabin prior to Jackson, Leigh, Goggins, and Russell. The scene suffers from the same problem that plagues a movie prequel; we already know what’s going to happen to these characters so there is no tension or surprises. Further, casting a black woman as the cabin’s proprietor negates the prior scene in which Bruce Dern is a total bigot who says, “He’s a nigger. That’s all I need to know.” Why is he okay with the cabin’s owner but not with Jackson? It doesn’t make sense. This scene also has a lot of Channing Tatum and Zoe Bell, who are the weak acting links among so many heavy hitters.
- The payoff scene. For me, this is the biggest movie flaw. Tarantino sets up a compelling murder mystery with bloody consequences that I was having fun trying to solve. Then, when things are ratcheted up all the way to eleven, he just tells you whodunit and spoils all the tension he spent so much time building. Then the movie continues for another hour in an orgy of violence, which actually got kind of boring. I think the movie would have been a lot stronger if he had built the tension all the way to the end, revealed the culprit, and had a very brief comeuppance scene to end it. Once the tension is gone, the movie’s over. Why am I watching another hour of carnage? It’s the first time violence in a Tarantino movie felt exploitative to me.
Final verdict: The Hateful Eight is another strong entry into Tarantino’s filmography. However, a couple of major problems with the story structure and editing prevent it from reaching true greatness. Overall, I enjoyed it, but it’s probably my least favorite Tarantino movie to date.
Story: ★★★½ of 5
Atmosphere: ★★★★★ of 5
Directing/Editing: ★★★ of 5
Acting: ★★★★½ of 5
Overall: ★★★½ of 5
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