OK – if you’ve already seen the movie and hated it, my review won’t change your mind, so move along folks, there’s nothing to see for you here, thanks.
Now for you, dear film fan, who is about to watch ‘The Hateful Eight’, but who is now slightly worried because of some very mixed critical reactions on for example IMDb or other pages – for you I’m writing this 100% spoiler-free review (yeah, and also I´m writing this because I enjoyed this movie so much that I watched it twice last weekend).
I gather that many long-time Tarantino fans apparently don’t like his newest film. I had feared such a reaction as soon as I had finished watching the movie. It’s obviously Tarantino’s least accessible effort yet, and there’s a number of reasons for that, not the least of which being that this is simply not the film most people expected (or felt they were promised). So if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re a bit doubtful because of the negative reviews, let me tell you: you’ll likely end up loving it – as I did – if you prepare yourself juuuust a little. And because I really liked the movie, I would like to help you do that via a short list of recommendations. Ready? Here it goes:
1. Don’t go watch ‘The Hateful Eight’ expecting a “classic” Western. It might belong to the Western genre, but if all that talk about Ultra 70mm Panavision had you thinking of lush outdoor scenery, vast landscapes or anything resembling a Sergio Leone movie, you’ll end up disappointed. There are a few nice shots showing snowy mountains, but 95% (perhaps more) of the story unfolds indoors (in one single room) – which isn’t to say that the cinematography isn’t absolutely fantastic. In fact, it’s more than fantastic: it’s stunning and worthy of an Oscar.
2. Don’t expect any exciting “action” scenes (for lack of a better word: I don’t mean the ‘Fast & Furious’ kind of action scenes) every 10 minutes or so; in fact, don’t expect anything other to happen between the characters than dialog for a loooooong time. Unlike in Tarantino’s previous films where we got almost “spoiled” by unexpected over-the-top moments in nearly every scene (except maybe for ‘Jackie Brown’ and ‘Deathprooof’), this film has a very, very slow build. But: that’s not to say it isn´t exciting (or that nothing does happen) – it’s just that the excitement and tension result mainly from the dialog and the excellent performances by the cast (at least for roughly two thirds of the movie).
3. Best approach this film as you would theater; for that’s what ‘The Hateful Eight’ really is: a stage play disguised as a movie. A stage play of a “Who-Done-It” murder mystery with a touch of Agatha Christie. But then again, that’s also a disguise, for the murder mystery is just a ploy to cast a look at a torn society rife with racial tension after the civil war. Which, of course, again serves as an allegory for racial relations in modern-day America and as the director’s angry commentary on how hateful that situation still is today, on all sides. Now that sounds awfully serious, but don’t worry; despite some hard-to-stomach ugliness and the highly political undercurrent, there is plenty of Tarantino’s trademark humor throughout the whole film.
4. Don’t expect to find a likable character you can root for. There’s a reason for the film’s title, and unlike in all his previous films, there is not a single person in Tarantino’s latest movie you’ll feel any real sympathy for. All the main characters have committed despicable, hateful acts, and they’re all beyond redemption – but that doesn’t mean they’re not compelling to watch (especially given this cast: everyone is fantastic, but Jackson, Russell, Jason Leigh and Goggins are just a joy to watch).
5. Don’t expect a complex plot. In my opinion, among Q.T’s films this is the one with the most straight forward and most simple plot to date, yet at the same time it’s arguably his most complex – and most ambitious – film.
So, dear film fan, that’s it: adhere to these here 5 “commandments”, and there’s a big chance you’ll end up loving Quentin’s latest oeuvre as much as I did (mind; you might love the film just as much without taking any of the above advice). I admit, it took me a while to get into this dialog-heavy stage play and would-be Western, but once I did, I never looked back (and I can hardly wait to watch it again). 10 stars out of 10.