Quentin Tarantino’s wild, shitty ride.
Warning: It should be implied from the title, but this is a complete review and discussion on the Hateful Eight. Spoilers will be present.
I stood in front of an old theater in Boston, one that has been around since the 1930s. I was told it had a “real projectionist” and an “old-timey” feel. I probably looked like just another Greater Boston college hipster.
The truth was, Quentin Tarantino’s 8th film “The Hateful Eight” had just come out, and I had to get it over with.
Friends and reviewers had expressed that the film was over three hours long, featured an intermission & overture, and took place exclusively in a one room cabin.
Even I, a long standing Tarantino fan, spent the better part of three weeks convincing myself to see this movie. When I finally got in line at the booth, it felt like doing chores for my grandfather, if my grandfather’s name was Quentin Tarantino. Just my grandfather, set in his ways. Telling the same story as yesterday — slowly losing his mind moment by moment.
The first half of the Hateful Eight
I sat down in the majestic old theater, prepared for the worst. When the movie began, I was shocked and immediately excited.
Maybe this movie wouldn’t be so bad after all.
The Overture, while a bit pompous, was wonderful. It built up from nothing to a tense cacophony of horns and other instruments. It felt like an old Ennio Morricone piece.
When the opening credits began rolling in glorious 70mm, I discovered the reason for the music connection. Ennio Morricone DID write a lot of the music in the movie. I also noticed during the credits that the whole movie DOES NOT take place in cabin.
A Note on 70mm: Going into the film, I was unsure of the full advantage of 70mm. Thankfully, there was a true professional sitting in front of us. During the intermission, this 19-year-old film wizard informed my friend and I that the movie was “just better” because it was shot in 70mm. A bunch of idiots around me agreed and passed it along to others lending an ear. I wanted to be as dead as the characters at the end of “Hateful Eight.”
What I liked about the Hateful Eight
I already mentioned my praise for the beginning of this movie. The music at the beginning is sweeping and tense, with that old western vibe. The initial emotion was there.
70mm looks pretty good
The set pieces in the beginning take full advantage of the wide format with outdoors and are beautiful. The widescreen picture enabled by the 70mm film is cool and allows for wide shots of wilderness and setting of tone and place.
The time between the opening credits and the arrival at Minnie’s Haberdashery seem fit for this type of film and necessary. There was no boring camera work to be seen in the first half.
Now let’s get to the titular characters. The Hateful Eight. From the first few lines of dialogue, it was apparent that I was watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. Every line is conversational and campy.
One odd thing I noticed was that all of the characters in this movie were hyper-animated. What I mean by this is, more than any other Tarantino film, characters fill an archetype. They have a role to play and almost overact.
I was originally turned off by this.
Later, I found myself to like this because the majority of the movie does take place in a cabin and evokes more of a “play” vibe. When there isn’t a lot else to keep the senses tingling, having vibrant characters will do the trick.
At the outset of the movie, everything seems to make sense. Kurt Russell’s character is taking Jennifer Jason Leigh to town to get her hanged and collect her reward. The character’s are all set up really well and are all given enough time to fit into their roles.
When we get to the cabin, Minnie’s Haberdashery, we are introduced to the other characters in interesting ways. The tone is signature Tarantino. Dialogue is charming/funny and conversational, but you just know shit is going to hit the fan sooner or later.
All good things must come to an end
Just as things are getting good, “The Hateful Eight” pulled a fast one. The rollercoaster stopped clicking. We had reached the top of the hill.
If I had to describe the experience of watching the second half of the Hateful Eight, I would say this:
- The Hateful Eight is realizing you love someone and going in for the kiss only to have them block your puckering lips with their hands.
- It’s getting ahead of the pack in a race and breaking your leg.
- The second half of the Hateful Eight is one of the worst cinematic letdowns in recent memory, exacerbated by the fact that this is the work of a masterful director.
Morality: the good, bad, and ugly
I’m guessing that the morality of the characters was supposed to be integral to the plot of the movie. These people truly are the “Hateful” eight. Every one of these people deserves to die for some reason or another.
Every time the character shows promise for doing being good, they do something to mar that reputation. I think that’s the whole idea. Nobody is free of sin.
The problem is that Samuel Jackson is the main character. He is a cool dude and the first person we see on camera. He gets the most screen time. He is portrayed as the most down on his luck, even though this is hardly the case. Everything he does is shot to empower us in him. He is our anti-hero and we are cheering him on.
When we meet everyone else, however, we are left to question why we are rooting a character who takes joy in running people naked through the snow and making them suck his “big, black Johnson.”
By the end of the movie, I didn’t care about anyone or anything going on. Is Daisy Domergue going to hang? Is she going to be saved? Is Sam Jackson going to live? I couldn’t care less.
One set snooze-festival
The movie is longer than the film it is shot on.
Including the intermission, I spent over three hours at the movie theater watching nothing happen. Ironically, the “slow” talking part that makes up the first half of the movie feels short in comparison to the bloodbath second half.
Once we get to Minnie’s Haberdashery, we spend 2 hours in a one-room cabin. This magnificent film. These expensive lenses. All to get shots of one room in a cabin.
I’m not even entirely against one set movies. When done right, they can be awesome. It’s hysterical to me that the recently released Krampus takes place almost entirely in one house, and does it better. For those of you that don’t know, Krampus is a Christmas horror film about toys that come to life and attempt to kill an entire family.
I also don’t think that filming on one set has to be boring (see Krampus above), but Tarantino seems like he is trying to put you to sleep with “The Hateful Eight.” Shots are either right up in someone’s face or far away, showing a few people standing there doing nothing.
I would have expected to see some cool shots, with moving parts on all sides, challenging my eyes to focus on what was most important. Very little of that happens.
The illusion of mystery
The movie has perfect opportunities to build tension and provide stress around pivotal moments, but spoils them all.
The Poisoned Coffee
So Samuel Jackson’s character carries out a big speech about white people and kills the old, racist Confederate general who I don’t care about. The scene ends and we go to intermission.
I come back with my popcorn and Quentin Tarantino tells me that while Sam was giving that speech, someone mysteriously poisoned the coffee while it was happening. Ooooooo! Who could have done it? Here’s who it could not have been:
- Sam Jackson
- Daisy Domergue
- O.B. (he is sitting nearby during the story)
Okay let me check the facts and see what I can…. oh okay so Kurt Russell and O.B. just drank the poisoned coffee immediately. (Wonder what’s going to happen to them?) The new sheriff picks up a cup and goes to drink, which means it probably isn’t him either.
Circling back: Am I the only one who thinks this would have been the perfect situation to show instead of tell? Imagine if, while Sam was giving his speech, keen eyes could see someone in the background pouring poison in a coffee. Oh right, you would probably need a widescreen film format for that…. whoops.
Imagine if in act two, instead of being told someone poisoned the coffee, it just sort of happened out of nowhere that Kurt Russell started vomiting blood and it was pieced together that everyone who drank the coffee was dying. Am I crazy??
The poisoned coffee feels like a wasted opportunity. Tarantino’s conveyance of the poisoned coffee ordeal is mysterious, but we get no mystery.
Sam Jackson knows clues that we don’t
Part of the reason for the lack of mystery is we don’t get to piece together clues ourselves. Nothing like a murder mystery where people just tell you clues you can’t know.
Rather than use the widescreen to show subtle hints and clues, Sam Jackson just tells us stuff. Apparently, the Mexican, posing as the haberdashery overseer would never have been hired by Minnie because she hated Mexicans. We know this because Jackson tells us, not because we see a sign in the distance that says, “Absolutely no Mexicans allowed.”
Throughout the whole movie, we just sort of figure things out through dialog…
….And suddenly everyone is shooting everyone in the face, legs, and chest. Well. There goes that mystery.
The Four Passengers
We find out that the owners of the building were killed where they stood by almost everyone that we met at the haberdashery. Also Channing Tatum has been hiding in the freezing cold basement the entire time because why not?
Cut to the next chapter, THE FOUR PASSENGERS!
We flashback to the arrival of the same four guys who we now know killed everyone at Minnie’s Haberdashery… at Minnie’s Haberdashery. What is the point of this scene except to be violent? Does Tarantino have a kill quota in his films?
We already know how this entire scene is going to end, and it ends exactly as we expect.
I know Tarantino isn’t known for this, but imagine if the order of the scenes were changed, so we saw the Four Passengers bit, before we were told. — /sarcasm
The Inglorious Basterds effect
I recently re-watched Inglorious Basterds, which I would honestly consider to be a brilliant movie. Two scenes have stuck in my mind since the first time I saw it.
(NO SPOILERS FOR INGLORIOUS BASTERDS HERE)
The first is the opener, where we see a Frenchman talking to Colonel Hans Landa about Jews the location of hidden Jews in his area. Is he hiding them? Is he not? The scene is amazing because we have no control over the situation at hand. We don’t know if the French guy has fugitives.
We don’t know if Colonel Landa is going to explode or do something at any minute.
AND WE DON’T EVEN KNOW THESE CHARACTERS!
Cut to the second and most well-known scene in Inglorious Basterds, the basement pub scene. Without giving anything plot-oriented away, a group is undercover, impersonating soldiers in a basement with real soldiers.
With every bit of dialogue, there is tension. You wonder if someone is going to give it away. Is someone going to shoot? I cannot believe that the same man who directed and helped shoot these two scenes was also responsible for “The Hateful Eight.”
What is the point of this movie?
Ultimately, I think I will leave this by saying I just don’t understand why this movie exists. Other than being a period piece (even that is a stretch), it isn’t really anything.
It isn’t a murder mystery, because there is no mystery.
It isn’t an action movie, since there is about 15 minutes of action within the span of three hours.
It isn’t a Western, because it’s just a bunch of people hanging out in a cabin, talking.
It’s not a snuff film, because there is way too much good dialogue and too much exposition to fit that bill.
This movie is nothing and never needed to exist. When the movie ended, two girls next to us started freaking out and hugging each other profusely. They were wiggling and shaking with excitement. I thought, “maybe I should have taken drugs three hours ago too.”