Quentin Tarantino is one of the more renowned directors of the last few decades, but oddly, his latest film, The Hateful Eight, does not get much love. It has all of the Tarintino staples. Nonlinear storytelling. Loads of violence. Intriguing tense dialogue. It is a period piece and highly stylized. People said it was good, but it did not get the praise many of his other films have. Which I find weird because to me it was his best film since Kill Bill.
The Hateful Eight is not my favorite Tarantino Movie. Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill are still his best work, but those are obvious. Everyone knows that those examples are cinema classics. Writing about them would be a waste of time because there is nothing new I could bring to the discussion. I fell like I need to make the case for the Hateful Eight being in that top Tier of Tarintino films though.
For those still unfamiliar with the movie, the Hateful Eight is a whodunnit story. Basically, someone in the log cabin is killed, and then the rest have to figure out who did it. Here is the synopsis.
While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be a sheriff. Hoping to find shelter from a blizzard, the group travels to a stagecoach stopover located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four strangers, the eight travelers soon learn that they may not make it to their destination after all.
Similar to his first film, Reservoir Dogs, the film pretty much takes place all in one setting, with occasional flashbacks. It almost feels like a stage play, similar to a movie like 12 Angry Men. The movie isn’t about the set pieces or an adventure, it is about these characters and how they interact. The single setting style allows for Tarantino to let the dialogue shine through, and this movie has some of his best dialogue work. Just watch this scene, where Samuel Jackson’s character is trying to bait a former Confederate General into trying to kill him. Just a warning, being a Quentin Tarantino movie, this clip is NSFW. It contains brief nudity, some powerful slurs, and of course violence.
Tarantino has a way of making his dialogue tense but informing the audience of the stakes. This conversation would not be as good of a scene if he was telling the story to someone random. But because he is telling this story to the father of the man he killed, and because he is doing it with the intention of making the father attack him, so he can kill him in self-defense, the scene is so tense.
It is helped by the fact that Samuel L Jackson’s performance is amazing here. All of the performances are great. Sam Jackson, Kurt Russel, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, in particular, give some of the best performances of their career.
One thing I liked, was that the outcome of the mystery is not completely predictable. Whenever we watch a mystery type movie like this, it is natural for us to try to figure out who the killer is. And while I was partially right, the truth was way more complicated than I could have predicted. It is also nice that even knowing the outcome, the movie is just as thrilling the second watch through. It does not use the mystery and the twist as a crutch, only as a seasoning on top of what is already a great movie.
Tarantino’s more recent movies before this had become a bit over the top. I still loved them, but they did not feel real in the sense his first couple movies did. I liked that for this one, he got back to telling a grounded story, it was a nice change of pace.
For all the reasons I mentioned and more, this is a movie I am willing to watch at any time. I haven’t even mentioned the great camera work, and the great score. I am never disappointed by a Tarantino film, and this one exceeded my expectations.