For his eighth feature film Quentin Tarantino sends us a special film in The Hateful Eight. For those near a participating theater, the film is being shown in a unique 70mm format that is also a few minutes longer than the standard cut of the movie. The Hateful Eight 70mm edition runs 3 hours and 7 minutes. The latest Tarantino flick stars Quentin regular Samuel L. Jackson along with Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Tim Roth, among others. This review will cover my thoughts on the 70mm format as well as the film as a whole, so SPOILERS are ahead.
The Hateful Eight 70mm Edition
The basic premise of The Hateful Eight is provided in the trailer for the movie: John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is bringing a bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into a town for to hang. They get stuck in a small inn of sorts during a blizzard with several other mysterious and untrustworthy folk.
First, I’d like to talk a bit about the 70mm experience. I’ve never seen a movie in this format, so it was a new experience. The film begins with an Overture. The music was nice but the experience seemed out of place and a little confusing given that no movie has been shown in such a format in about 50 years (at least at a major theater for a new release). I think the oddest part was that no one came to explain any of the differences, so when the lights went out and no previews came on, it took a second for us to adjust.
The film begins and is broken into chapters. Each chapter is named appropriately, in fact, one is even explained in an out of place narration. You see, the first half of the film does not have any narration but halfway through, the movie breaks in an intermission (more on that in a minute) and when we return, Quentin Tarantino brings us back up to speed and also takes us along back in time for a companion story of sorts that helps explain and set up the predicament everyone is in by the end of the first act. This narration was odd and definitely out of place. Since the film does not start with one nor does another follow later, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the tone and style of the movie. Now, the intermission I mentioned earlier is another addition in the 70mm cut. Like the classic Roadshow films, it has an intermission but since that is no longer common place I couldn’t tell you how long it was and at the time, I certainly had no idea. The screen says Intermission for a few seconds and then it just fades to black as the lights in the theater go up slightly. Again, we have no instruction, so if you want to grab food and/or use the restroom, make it quick.
The overall style of The Hateful Eight does fit the extra widescreen format of the 70mm release. As noted in the special engagement program:
“Ultra Panavision 70 refers to the very rare and exceptional format that Quentin Tarantino and his team used to shoot The Hateful Eight. Panavision’s unique anamorphic camera lenses capture images on 70mm film in an incredible aspect ratio of 2.76:1. Almost all films you see today are shot in ratios of either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. So, to put it simply, Ultra Panavision 70 provides an amazingly wider and more detailed image.”
It goes on to note that only a few films were ever filmed in such a manner including Ben-Hur and Battle of the Bulge with the last such film, Khartoum, being filmed in 1966.
The overall feel of the supposed Roadshow Engagement was well attempted. The program is printed on very high quality paper with detailed images and the overall cinematography was outstanding. With that said, I don’t think I felt like this movie was a different kind of experience from anything else but that might have been my lack of anticipating such an experience.
I did enjoy the wider image though. I felt like I was getting a bigger picture, showing more of what was going on. I’d be interested in seeing a comparison between that format and some others like 5K, 4K, 1080p, etc.
Now, let’s talk about the movie itself. I’d classify myself as a Tarantino fan overall. I consider Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds as some of my favorite movies of all time. With that said, The Hateful Eight was a bit disappointing. First off, the casting was NOT the problem. Everyone was great. Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson seemed to have solid chemistry and I enjoyed their time on screen together. I especially loved Tim Roth’s character Oswaldo Mobray. This unique English character brought a sense of lightheartedness and brightness that the movie desperately needed. Jennifer Jason Leigh pulled off the crazed captive perfectly and even freaked me out a bit at times.
The story was pretty basic: a bounty hunter gets stuck in a storm with his bounty while others try to kill him for it. The real focus of the film is on the why. Why do people want to stop John Ruth (Russell)? This is something I will not spoil here but it was interesting and I enjoyed the twist that finally brought everything together. While of course I expected a bloody ending for pretty much everyone involved, especially at the hands of the various guns, the method and the reasoning was something I had not anticipated.
The dialogue was very Tarantino. I enjoyed most of it because I’m a dialogue kind of guy. It’s the amazing monologues that I love which is why movies like The Big Lebowski are so high on my list. With that said, Tarantino finds another film excuse to use the n-word over and over again. While I have come to expect that in his films, it’s not something I ever get used to and his attempts to nullify the power of the word definitely fall flat in The Hateful Eight, a film that takes place shortly after the Civil War and includes characters who fought for both sides. The people using the word as not doing so in the context of say, those in Pulp Fiction but more because they are flat out racist and were recently fighting to keep slavery a thing. Either way, it detracted from an otherwise decent film.
I liked The Hateful Eight but I did not love it. It’s a solid movie with a solid story. The characters are interesting and compelling and you get the expected Tarantino money shot of death, blood, and violence. The second act was significantly better than the first not just because it picked up the pace but because it had more story to it. The first act feels like people more or less sitting\standing around while the second has the exposition, action, information, and movement. I would rank the film as 4th on my list of Tarantino movies but I want to preface that by saying I have not seen Jackie Brown, Deathproof, or True Romance.
I’d give it 3.5 UFOs out of 5. Good but not great.