The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s bloody rendition of a what a play would look like filtered through the eyes of the visual director. It’s funny because where Tarantino is largely and accurately looked at as a pastiche director, one who takes elements of several others and combines them into one thing, The Hateful Eight very much seems like a pastiche of previous Tarantino films, although I guess you could make that argument about all his films.
Of course, Tarantino loves nothing more than hearing people speak his dialogue, so this film which is about 80% set in the same location, a haberdashery filled with a cavalcade of Tarantino characters, is practically a field day for Tarantino where he has access to eight+ characters cramped in a tiny room, all fixed to play off each other and each maintaining their own motivations and secrets. It works well in this sense because Tarantino gets to indulge in everything he loves like grand monologues, Samuel L. Jackson recounting an epic story, and slowly tightening the grip on these characters who are all unsure of who each other truly is.
I think that’s the best thing that Tarantino has going for him here, I mean, largely it’s the whole point of the film, but it works expertly in ratcheting up the tensions until you’re finally revealed to who’s who and what’s going on. Chiefly all these characters with different backgrounds and motivations are stuck in this cabin during a blizzard, until Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Marquis Warren slowly unravels that certain people might not be who they say they are and like all Tarantino films unravels into a mess of blood and chaos.
The film is purposely slow and takes a while to get to the point where all is revealed, but it happens in one large swoop rather than one-by-one. I previously thought coming into this that it would be a And Then There Were None situation where people slowly get picked off one by one, but I guess in this shortened film time it almost works better where things pop off with a huge violent reveal. Tarantino, though, to create these shortcuts and remove some of the guessing from the audience actually outlines, through his own dang narration I might add, what is going on and literally tells you which character did what and guides your hand in solving this mystery for you. I’m not explaining that well at all, but it’s this weird thing where Tarantino provides his own narration in order to skip the plot ahead and tell you pertinent plot details instead of letting things play out, it’s weird and not a good decision, even if it speeds the film’s events up.
It’s almost pointless to talk about the performances in a Tarantino movie, because they’re always so good. Jackson is fantastic and literally fits any Tarantino movie like a glove, where nobody delivers Tarantino dialogue like Samuel. It’s nice to see Kurt Russell back again who’s perfect as a gruff bounty hunter where he has a code always to bring his subjects to hang, because the hangman’s gotta work, too. Tim Roth does his best Christoph Waltz impression and Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern turn in inspired work as well. By far the standout, though, is Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix, a supposed newly appointed sheriff to the town they’re all traveling to. He’s his typical Walton Goggins southern hillbilly self combining a weird off-kilter sense about him to his bubbly humour that can pop out of nowhere.
I will say that after Django Unchained its gotten progressively uncomfortable hearing and seeing Tarantino make these movies with black issues at the forefront involving slavery and the general treatment of black people of this time, and his insistence in using the n-word so frequently. I realize this was largely how it was, but it seems excessive to a fault, even if he’s trying to make some kind of point, and especially coming from Tarantino, who is as white as can be. I don’t know, it just seems a bit much at times, and yes, the black protagonist in the past two films always gets his way over the oppressors, but it sometimes just feels he uses it as an excuse a bit too much.
It’s hard to tell at this point where I fit this on the overall canon of Tarantino, I liked it overall, but as soon as I finished I was dying for a re-watch because I think things will become a lot more clear once I’ve seen it again. I did respect and enjoy the play aspect of things, where everything was combined and contained to one specific area that made you feel like a bigger part of the film and the filmic world became such that you were aware of every nook and cranny of that cabin. I am very interested to see what Tarantino will do next, since his big ideas years ago of doing a WWII film and a western have now been done, and now two westerns at that. As great, and enjoyable as his period films have been, I wouldn’t mind him tackling something in the modern day again or perhaps another modern crime flick in the vein of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. Who knows.