The Hateful Eight movie full length review - Tarantino might need a little restraint.
...not on the violence and "offensive" department necessarily, but structure-wise. It turns out that "The Hateful Eight" doesn't really know how it wants to present itself.
I saw the shorter version, the one that's "only" 2hrs and 40min. I don't know how much tighter the longer version is, but I'll review what I saw.
I do like the idea. People who seemingly have unexpected connections are trapped somewhere, and everyone seems to have an agenda. It's more like a classic murder mystery than a western, even if the tonal (or even genre) changes do come to play eventually.
I know nothing about the cameras or film they used, but people seem to be making a big deal about it. Perhaps it is, and perhaps those wide interior shots were made possible with that stuff. But if you're looking for visual brilliance like "The Revenant", you won't get it. Even though some scenery (especially at the beginning) looks nice, most of this movie happens in a cottage. That's not a flaw in itself, and this movie surely isn't poorly shot (quite the opposite) but I guess I was hyped up to see something else. Granted, my experience is based on the DVD I watched, which is probably the worst way to watch this one. I had no chance to see this in a theater with the setup this was meant to be seen.
The structure is baffling. This movie is divided into chapters. Some chapters drag on and on. I like the dialogue, and the actors are fine, but it felt like I was binge-watching a short series. That alone isn't a big deal, but suddenly around chapter 3 or 4 (I forgot), you get a narrator. Suddenly the movie is narrated to you, and the storytelling methods change for a bit. At some point during the latter half, the movie skips in time and shows you the beginning before the end. While there is a charm to it, this type of stuff got me out of the experience. You're slowly lulled into thinking you're watching X, and then it changes into Y. Granted, it made things interesting in a different way, but I felt it happened at the expense of the atmosphere and tension.
With great editing, this could have been a tight, engaging 2-hour movie. Instead it's wrapped in a long and choppy, sometimes even seemingly directionless form. That mess isn't horrible in itself, and I think that each different tonal or story segment is at least decent on its own, but without the straightforward ending I would have felt cheated.
So what about the engaging end parts? Perhaps I'm just an idiot who can't appreciate fine details or narrative diversity, but the simple, brutal and engaging last segment heightened everything else that happened before it as well. Without the overblown bloody rampage the long, disjointed build-up would just be an experiment in story-telling and not much else. Yes, it gets violent and exaggerated. You know it's coming, and while I can see how Tarantino tried to make this movie into something else than just a violent, gruesome action piece, that same violent action was by far the most satisfying thing this movie had to offer.
Almost the entire cast is very damn good, and the rest are "just" good. Samuel L. Jackson is once again very captivating, even though I'm for some reason waiting for him to fail in these movies, as if all his good work was just an accident. Nope, he's very good. And while Walton Goggins seemed to be forcing his accent and mannerisms at first, he became one of my favorite actors/characters of this movie. Jennifer Jason Leigh was great from the start. Every time she was on screen she got me, and I think she gave the best performance of them all. Tim Roth is always a pleasure to watch, as is Bruce Dern. Kurt Russell was good enough, which is fitting. Everyone else was fine.
In a long Tarantino movie, you're going to get tons of dialogue. Most of the dialogue is captivating. It seems to be mundane, but there always seems to be something happening between the characters, they're not just words for words' sake.
There are many instances of the word "nigger" in this movie. If you can't handle words like that, you can stay away. Then again, if you enjoy white men getting the short end of the stick, you could probably enjoy the scene where Samuel L. Jackson's character tells a story (in flashbacks) about thoroughly humiliating a white man. I don't know if it was some kind of political commentary, which I'd rather not have in a Tarantino movie of all things, but those kind of scenes managed to give the title "Hateful eight" more weight. Everyone is a hateful, bad person in one way of another.
The soundtrack did nothing for me. This is weird in a Tarantino movie. At times it even irritated me a little. I know Morricone is a master of his craft, and if I ever watch this film again, I will pay more attention to the score.
In the end, I'm glad I didn't give up on this movie. It seemed to go nowhere at times, it couldn't (or didn't want to) hold its narrative on a tight rope, it's certainly very long, but the last 30-40 minutes made "Hateful Eight" a positive experience for me. I don't know if I'll be seeing it again. I hope that Tarantino can get people in his crew to challenge him more, or a master editor at least.
Recommended for tonal shift aficionados, narrative structure critics, "people trapped in a house" - enthusiasts, story detail hunters and of course those who just like to watch people getting murdered like no tomorrow (but skip to the end for that).