Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Hateful Eight Review

Starting in November and going every week up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I watched and reviewed every single Star Wars movie. Shortly after the release of The Force Awakens, I began another marathon. A Quentin Tarantino marathon. I didn't review all of those movies like I did with my Star Wars marathon, but I wanted to do this marathon because I hadn't seen all of Tarantino's movies. I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time a year or two back and I was immediately blown away by how amazing that movie was. It immediately became one of my all-time favorite movies. Thus before I went to his new movie, I wanted to watch his other movies since there wasn't too many of them. That's why this review is a bit late. I didn't realize until around Christmas time that the expansion of The Hateful Eight had been pushed up to December 30th. But now my marathon is complete and now it's time to top that off with a review of The Hateful Eight. As it turns out, no movie topped Pulp Fiction, but all eight of his movies are pretty darn good. In fact, they're so good that this gem of a movie in The Hateful Eight is actually his sixth best movie.

The trailers for The Hateful Eight didn't clue me in too much as to what this movie was going to be about, which I mostly appreciated. However, this was one of the few instances where I wanted a little more of an idea of what we were getting into. When I finally heard, not from marketing but from reviews, that this was a Tarantino version of Clue I immediately became intrigued and excited, especially after I dove into more of his movies and realized more of this man's brilliance as a filmmaker. I always love myself a good who-done-it movie. If this was a Tarantino who-done-it movie, I was in. That's kinda what we got. I'll get to more of that in a second. But as far as our premise, we're set in the Civil War time period, just after the war I do believe, and we have a bunch of different characters trapped in a cabin during a blizzard. We have a couple of bounty hunters. One of them has a female victim worth $10,000 that he's planning to get hanged. The other fought for the North in the war. We also have a war general from the South, the new sheriff of the town everyone's heading to, a hang man from that town, and a few other side characters. It's a very fun setup and you know something is about to go down. You just don't know what.

I'm going to do best to tread lightly around things as I talk about this movie because the mystery aspect of it is what makes this a whole lot of fun. I did mention that a who-done-it movie is mostly what we got. What I mean by mostly is that this is not quite the movie I thought it was going to be after I heard others talk about it. In Clue, the premise is that a bunch of different people are gathered in a room and towards the beginning someone dies when no one is looking and everyone spends the rest of the movie trying to solve this mystery of who committed this murder. That doesn't really happen here. Not like I thought it would, anyways. Instead it's more like a group of people stuck in a cabin and the big mystery is who is bad, who is good, and who is going to finally do something that will set up the bloodbath that we know is going to happen. There is a murder mystery somewhere in the plot, but it ends up feeling more shoehorned in than anything and when a reveal does happen, it ends up actually being kinda lame. We also know from the opening credits that more characters are going to be a part of this outside our main eight and most of those characters are useless when they do show up.

I hope this isn't too spoilery for you if you haven't seen this movie. We're three hours long and there's a lot more that happens that I'm not even hinting at, but I do bring up what I do in order to help illustrate that the story of this movie isn't actually that interesting, especially when compared to Tarantino's other movies. Django Unchained was a slavery, Western movie. Inglorious was a re-telling of World War II. Kill Bill was a huge revenge story. Jackie Brown was a hidden love story. This was just a bunch of guys in a room. No real depth to it. Not a whole lot of meaning. The themes aren't nearly as strong as some of his other movies. Splitting this movie into chapters didn't really have a point. Telling this out of chronological order didn't work in this like it usually does in his movies. The ideas were in place for a super interesting movie, but the execution doesn't really work in this like it usually does. There's several elements that are in every Tarantino movie and while all of his movies are good, his best movies are the movies where all of his elements fit together perfectly. This didn't happen with The Hateful Eight.

That said, this isn't a bad movie. It's just a sub-par movie when compared to Tarantino's other work. When you've made so many great movies in your career, there's almost an expectation to put out great movies each time and thus when you make a movie this is good and not great, it's often seen as a disappointment. That's just an unfair part of life, I suppose. When you spend the last 20 years making great and sometimes near-perfect movies, a misstep is a lot more noticeable and easier to criticize. But for now I'm going to be done criticizing. If my negative points are confusing, that's because I'm not letting myself go into details because the aspects that are most worthy of complaining about are in the middle and the end of the movie. As far as the good, the best part of the movie is the characters and the amazing acting performances given by everyone. I was actually really worried about the three hour run time going in, but that wasn't an issue at all because the buildup and character development with all of our characters is perfect. One of the things that Tarantino does best is his dialogue. He can often go huge portions of a movie just with people talking and somehow make it super interesting. That's the case here. Much of the three hour run time was the spoken dialogue between all of the characters and it was all really fascinating.

Part of the reason why all the dialogue was so fascinating was obviously a well-written script that kept you paying attention to every spoken word. The other part is the acting. This is one of the rare instances where I almost don't want to point out anyone because if I point out one person, I have to point out everyone and if I point out everyone, I might get carried away and spend four or five paragraphs just on the different performances. That would be excessive. So I'm just going to give highlights here and not complete thoughts. Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Tim Roth are our Tarantino staples and all were amazing, especially Samuel L. Jackson, who gives possibly his best performance yet in a Tarantino movie. Walter Goggins gives an excellent sophomore effort in a Tarantino movie. He was in Django, but wasn't a huge character. This he is. And he almost steals the show as the character who experiences the best and most interesting arc. When push comes to shove, the one who does steal the show is our prisoner girl played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Holy. Fetching. Cow. That woman was crazy. Bruce Dern I loved. Channing Tatum I actually wish was in the whole movie because he was fantastic in his five minutes of screen time. More people could've been mentioned, but I think that's a good highlight reel of performances.

Moral of the story is that if there are awards shows that give out the awards for best ensemble cast, The Hateful Eight better win hands down. It would in my book that is. Other awards that it should at least get a nomination for include the amazing score and the beautiful cinematography. From the very opening scene I knew that both of those elements would be amazing throughout and they were. The score immediately grabbed me during the opening shot and blew me away the whole time. It was so great that it was one of those scores that I was singing for the rest of the night. And every shot of the movie was so beautifully crafted, especially the shots of them out in the snow. When your goal is to build tension throughout your movie, building up to your big reveal, these two aspects are very important and even though the reveal itself was underwhelming, they did great with the buildup. This is another reason why the three hour run time didn't feel that long. I also wish I was able to see this movie in the 70 mm format that it was shot it. But there were no theaters around me that had that format showing, so I just had to do it as is.

Once again, Tarantino is a master filmmaker. The man really knows how to make a movie. With the large amounts of blood and gore in every one his movies, he's definitely not a filmmaker that will appeal to everyone, but if you are a Tarantino fan, The Hateful Eight is another score for Tarantino that you need to check out. The music and cinematography are practically perfect and that combined with an amazing script with beautiful dialogue make the build-up for this movie very good. It's a long movie, but one that keeps your attention with every move and every line. The mystery surrounding the movie makes it really interesting and fun to follow. However, when we learn what is actually going on, I will admit that the movie as a whole becomes a lot less interesting than it could've been and you realize that the story in this movie is very weak. Thus when compared to Tarantino's other movies, this is no where near as good as several of his other movies. But even with this less than stellar premise, it still manages to be intense and entertaining as you are unsure where everyone's loyalties will lie. It's not going to show up on my list of favorite movies from 2015, but it's still worth checking out if you haven't already. In a bit of a storybook finish to this review, I'm going to give The Hateful Eight, Tarantino's eight film, an 8/10.

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