With the theatrical release of The Hateful Eight running for 167 minutes, and the roadshow version being an even more impressive 187 minutes long, one starts to wonder if Quentin Tarantino is even physically capable to shoot anything that is under two hours long these days. Not that I want to complain about the length. Honestly, I was so captivated by the movie that the hours just flew right past me. By the time the end credits started to roll I could have sworn that it had not yet even hit the two hour mark, speak nothing of feeling like I had been sitting for nearly three hours in the theater.
Beforehand I had harbored some minor concerns about the length because Tarantino’s previous movie, Django Unchained, had in my eyes some glaring issues concerning its structure and pacing, especially in the third act where it felt like took one or two entirely unnecessary detours instead of just ending the movie already. This time around we fortunately are spare that as the movie oh so elegantly manages to sidestep such pitfalls entirely by having a strong, chapter based structure to its narrative, thus avoiding Django’s primary problem of having a bit too much story stuffed into one movie.
At first glance one might think that placing the bulk of the movie’s story inside a stuffy cabin during a blizzard, and featuring eight very different, distinct characters as its cast and spending the next two hours watching people mostly just talking would not make for a particularly thrilling movie, but Tarantino is able to make it work. Quintin is very good at juggling the massive cast by revolving the character focus from one to the next in a pleasant pace, occasionally spicing up the chit-chat with some heated exchanges and small bursts of violence. He also keeps things interesting by tying a couple of rather clever connections to certain individuals sharing the cabin, slowly building up a minor plot point from scratch that ends up delivering one of the perhaps most notorious scenes in the entire movie involving Samuel L. Jackson.
A great deal of credit for making this such a captivating movie has to go Quintin’s dialog, which is amazing as usual. There are so many fascinating conversations had in the course of the story, and the closer to the end you get the more brutal and bloody, the sweeter does the flying use of profanity and boiling rage in the dialog become. You find yourself wishing the movie would never end and you could get to witness more of these brilliant conversations that can start entirely civil like, only to explode a minute later as acrid smell of gunsmoke fills the air and the floor is drenched in blood.
An equal amount of credit also has to go to the stellar cast, as their impeccable chemistry with each other is a key factor in keeping you absolutely enchanted with the gritty, slow burning suspense thriller aspect of the movie where Kurt Russell’s character, The Hangman, is trying to decipher whom among the cabin’s other occupants is not who they say they are and might be trying to stop Russell from delivering his bounty, Daisy Domergue (played by the great Jennifer Jason Leigh), to the authorities so that she would hang for her crimes. Everyone from the new old hotness of Bruce Dern, who spends nearly his entire screen time just sitting on an armchair next to the fire place yet has some of the best acting in the entire picture, to Tim Roth’s dandy and cheerful mannerism, to Walton Goggins’ adorable, slightly dimwitted southern to-be sheriff antics to Kurt Russel magnificent mustache are doing a first class performance here. It was also nice seeing Zoë Bell in a nice little cameo role again. She’s cute as a button and like always, you wish there was more of her in the movie. Hell, even Channing Tatum in his miniscule role was surprisingly good, charming even. And I’m not just saying that because I enjoyed the split of a second moment where you got to see, in true Tarantino spirit, Tatum’s head explode in a gratuitous, over-exaggerated fit of ultra violence. He actually was pretty decent.
Speaking of excessive violence, maybe it’s just the internal misogynist in me but unlike some people I’ve heard talk about the movie, I never had any type of sympathy towards Daisy. To me, just about every violent beat down that she suffered throughout the movie by the Hangman’s hand was something she deserved, and had had a long time coming to her. It felt good to see I was more or less vindicated on that front later on when Daisy really gets to show how awful of a person she is.
Which neatly brings me to my next topic. I quite enjoyed the fact that basically everyone of the titular hate filled eight are in one way or another, completely irredeemable bunch of assholes, the whole lot of them. Occasionally you might be shown something that makes them feel slightly likable people, but it’s not long before you are again reminded what hard, callous human beings they are. Samuel L. Jackson in particular really swings from being a likable black Calvary officer with a touch of respectability to him to a complete, unforgivable bastard who really does seem to love killing white folk just for the fun of it. And somehow, by the time you reach the end, you still find yourself rooting for him. Perhaps that’s purely a guy thing, and you only have this surge of renewed, intense sympathy for him in the final minutes of the movie, because near the end he happens to gets his genitalia blown to shreds by a nasty rain of lead and spends the rest of the movie veraciously bleeding from his groin, struggling to survive and punish the people responsible for his pecker being turned into sawdust. Ah, I just adore Tarantino and his wicked sense of humor and gleeful admiration of brutal violence inflicted on his characters.
In essence, The Hateful Eight is a dark, morbidly fun movie to watch as a date movie. Girls love wanton violence and horrible protagonists, right? The movie features all the staples of a Tarantino movie that you could possibly want, the only notable departure from the norm being the soundtrack. But when you have an entirely original score by Ennio Morricone taking the place of the usual iconic, idiosyncratic collection of highly cinematic tunes, who can complain? Certainly not I. The only real regret I have with this movie is that I was not able to see it in the 70 mm format, as Tarantino’s vision had intended the movie to be shown. Somehow I just know the gritty film print version would have been pure multiple intense eye orgasm inducing aesthetic bliss.