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Hateful Eight (70MM Roadshow), The
The Weinstein Company // R // December 25, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
After successfully taking home the Oscar gold for his writing in Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino is releasing his next feature just in time for Christmas. Regardless of whether or not you've been paying much attention to trailers or clips, you know what to expect: witty writing, superb performances, and racism that inevitably results in sudden bursts of extreme violence. The Hateful Eight fulfills all of that criteria, but Tarantino once again manages to impress with what will surely be considered to be one of the best films of 2015. If the words "Quentin Tarantino" and "western" capture your interest, then you'll likely think the same way.
Taking place in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell) seek shelter during a dangerous blizzard. Along the way, they pick up the new Sheriff (Walton Goggins) in the town that they're heading to. With dead bodies and a murderer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on board to be hanged, they're looking forward to making some wealth. However, when they find themselves in a plot of betrayal and deception, nobody is guaranteed survival past the blizzard.
The Hateful Eight is a throwback in practically every sense of the word. Not only is the overall style very reminiscent of these older features, but the plot structure also adds a retro sense of character that works incredibly well. If you're seeing the 70mm version, the film is introduced with an interlude and includes an intermission that separates the film's two varying tones. Tarantino's screenplay features a slow build that allows for a great amount of tension to develop between characters, although we aren't always sure who we can trust. Every one of them has the possibility to be deceiving us, and they all have their motives to do so. As each character is introduced from one chapter to the next, Tarantino continues to evolve each of the important roles into complete arcs that incite dark comedy and an abundance of captivating character interactions that make the three-hour running time fly by.
Before the intermission, the film establishes both the characters and the possible stakes that are at risk in regards to the negative feelings that some have towards each other. Most of the dark humor can be found within the first act, especially in the interactions of John Ruth and criminal, Daisy Domergue. They remain chained to one another for most of the running time, as her vulgar nature continues to show itself more and more as the film unfolds. However, the second half features a more serious, although much more violent tone that is quite relentless. Racism and sexism continue to escalate the tension between characters, until it explodes into inevitable brutality. Perhaps my only complaint about the final act is a flashback that brings us to an overly-long sequence that could have been explained in a more concise and well-rounded fashion. Otherwise, this is an extremely satisfying conclusion.
The difference between the digital and 70mm versions go beyond the appearance of the picture, as Tarantino actually cut them differently. The former utilizes a bit quicker pacing in specific sequences, In the latter, he allows many scenes to linger, adding to the tone of an older western. While some who cannot find a theater that can project in 70mm will be undeniably irritated by the fact that they will be receiving a different cinematic experience, his decisions make absolute sense. Mainstream audiences may be pulled out of the experience due to longer pauses in scenes, while film buffs will appreciate and respect the slower pace being applied. It will be interesting to see how the Blu-ray/DVD release will be handled, but the 70mm experience may be one that audiences won't have for quite some time after it leaves cinema screens.
Similar to past Tarantino flicks, The Hateful Eight sports a variety of impressive performances from its cast. Samuel L. Jackson is extremely convincing as Major Marquis Warren. He handles the witty dialogue with a sense of mastery that truly aids in delivering his character's perspective. However, Jennifer Jason Leigh steals the spotlight as Daisy Domergue. This is an Oscar-worthy performance that is vulgar and disturbing, yet absolutely captivating. However, other portrayals from Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, and Bruce Dern are also quite strong, as the entire cast make the film what it is. Fortunately, you won't find Tarantino himself in the cast on this one.
The decision to release the film in 70mm in some theaters is a brilliant one. If you're able to experience it in this format, this is how it should be seen. While my press screening had some problems with the print, it still looks absolutely fantastic. The digital version takes away from the gritty throwback tone that the remainder of the film evokes. Nevertheless, Tarantino does a wonderful job with framing every moment. Both the production and costume designs are absolutely spectacular. It will inevitably receive a lot of attention for Ennio Morricone's superb score, as well. Everything about The Hateful Eight looks and sounds exactly as it should.
Being a fan of Tarantino's work, I wasn't surprised by the fact that I loved it. Audiences know what to expect when walking into one of his films, but they continue to be delivered in a way that's so utterly satisfying. However, it does also suffer from the same problem that most of his features do: it could use a bit more trimming in the editing room. The screenplay offers an array of fascinating characters with interactions that prove to grow more tense with each and every scene. Those seeing the 70mm version - and you should be - will have a cinematic experience that is quite exhilarating. Jennifer Jason Leigh turns in an outstanding performance as the psychotic Daisy Domergue that is worthy of an Oscar. It likely won't work as well for non-Tarantino fans, but it's an experience worth having in 70mm. The Hateful Eight is yet another spectacular win for Quentin Tarantino. Highly recommended!