The Hateful Eight online movie review - Tarantino Back to his (and America's) Roots : A Heartfelt Ten to "The Hateful Eight"...
Eight strangers, caught in the middle of a blizzard must share a cabin, time, stew and coffee. Everything oppose them, the one thing they got in common is that you can tell the actors had fun playing them, and you can build some of the best acting out of fun.
Meeting in the stagecoach, you have John Ruth,a paranoid bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) handcuffed with a female black-eyed criminal, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) taken to Red Rock to be hanged. And you have a black Union veteran, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) who also happens to be a bounty hunter with three dead men to carry to Red Rock, too much for his horse, rest in peace. The friendly two meet a Lost-Causer named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who happens to be the future Sheriff of Red Rock and has good reasons to see the Yankee with a black eye (lousy pun, sorry).
In the stagecoach stopover, you have Oswaldo Mobray, a suave Englishman (Tim Roth) who happens to be Red Rock's future executioner, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy who's going to visit his mother although his face screams "desperado" more than "mama's boy", General Smithers (Bruce Dern), a Confederate veteran with a grumpy menacing look and "Bob", a Mexican worker (Damien Bashir) who took the place of the seemingly absent owners, much to Warren's surprise, as he's used to stop at Minnie's famous 'Haberdashery'. So, the least thing that can be said when all the characters are exposed, is that there are too many coincidences to suspend our disbelief, and maybe the two bounty hunters have good reasons to be suspicious.
What follow is a fantastic behind-closed-doors (with nailed boards) mystery drama with as much anger, deceptions, lies and ugliness as in "12 Angry Men", "Sleuth" and "The Wild Bunch" combined, it even has the demographic relevance of Lumet's movie as the whole cast incarnates the entire post-Civil War nation in microcosm. What a great movie? finally.
I say "finally" because, in all honesty, when I learned that Tarantino was making another Western, with a title à la "Dirty Dozen" and "Magnificent Seven", I thought it would be another 60's-70's B-movie's remake with some score-recycling and revenge-fantasy plot, that would again appeal on the basis that the director-can-never-go-wrong.
But this time, he didn't, and I don't even know where to start, but I'll try to make it through eight points, after all, eight is the fetish-number and it's like Quentin Tarantino's "8½" with all the references made to his previous work, well, the film feels like Tarantino, BACK TO HIS ROOTS and that's for the first strength.
2/ THE SLOW PACING isn't just the usual quiet-before-storm stuff, the film leaves room (literally) for a few seemingly-friendly exchanges that feel like exposition (well they are) but they put you at ease, you know it will pay-off, in a bloody way, but you actually enjoy the long conversations the film features independently from the plot.
3/ TWO STAND-OUT PERFORMANCES: despite the slow placing, there are the usual angry tirades and eloquent storytelling but the quieter moments belong to some of the greatest actors' interactions Tarantino ever directed and on that level, Jennifer Jason Leigh, deservedly Oscar-nominated, and Walton Goggins really stole the show, which is saying a lot.
4/ UNRELIABILITY: basically, you don't know who's the good or bad guy. Think about it, all the previous films had clearly established villains (although charismatic) and heroes (although flawed). "The Hateful Eight" strikes by the fact that you never quite know whom to trust, or to believe. Is the story a lie? Is the letter a fake? Is Minnie absent? We're back to "Reservoir Dogs" claustrophobic entrapment enhanced by that ugly blizzard going outside as a dark comedy running gag.
5/ VULNERABILITY: There's nothing, no status, no strength, that makes anyone immune to bullets. The violence strikes everyone in its blindest, ugliest and most surprising way, and it's precisely because Tarantino puts some slow and talky moments in the right places that the outbursts of violence really take you off-guard and you never really see them coming, while in his previous movies, where it was all about the good guy taking his revenge, we had a sort of cinematic instinct telling us when it was going to get ugly.
6/ INTELLIGENT SUBVERSION: the film was panned as misogynistic. I think the treatment Domergue got spoke loud statements about the danger she incarnated and that 'embiggened' her aura more than anything. No offense to the Girl-Power trend that affected the action genre with "Star Wars" and "Mad Max" but I found the two most interesting portrayals of female protagonists in movies this yeas were Jennifer Jason Leigh as Domergue, and Emily Blunt in "Sicario", and both happened to be violent yet stylishly realistic and pervert movies.
7/ A BEAUTIFUL CINEMATOGRAPHY
8/ IL MAESTRO: an original score by Ennio Morricone, which shows that, for once, Tarantino took his material more maturely and seriously than usual, though some bits were originally made (but not used) for Carpenter's "The Thing", one of the movies that inspired Tarantino, and you can tell, there's something personal in this movie, as it really feels 'different'.
But this difference didn't meet the same acclaim than "Basterds" or "Django" and the screenplay wasn't even Oscar-nominated. It seems like people are more openly critical toward "The Hateful Eight" than any other Tarantino movie, as if all of a sudden, the characters were too mean-spirited, and violence too much to handle, yet it was cool when it was against Nazis and slavers.
For once that Tarantino doesn't go over a simplistic and intelligence-insulting good vs. evil antagonism, he becomes the bad guy, like they say, Nature hates emptiness. Well for "The Hateful Eight", I give the 'bad guy' a heartfelt Ten.