Quentin Tarantino movies should just already get slapped onto best movies of the year lists or slotted into movie award nominations before he’s even finished making them. It sounds presumptuous but come on, this is Tarantino here; he’s only made 8 films in his entire career and each one has been a golden testament to his talent for creating masterpiece motion pictures. This is literally the only director in the world talented enough to make me go see westerns and war movies: two genres I loathe with a venomous passion, but Tarantino’s westerns and war movies? I’ll see those in a heartbeat. Speaking of, gun slinging must have been quite a fun experience for Tarantino because after “Django Unchained”, he’s heading back to the Wild West once more with “The Hateful 8.”
Set some time after the Civil war ended, a pair of legendary bounty hunters (Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson), their female bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and a sketchy sheriff (Walton Goggins) is forced by a blizzard to shack up in a familiar tavern and ride the storm out together. Unfortunately, a pair of strange new faces inhabits the tavern when they arrive and as the storm intensifies and tempers flare, it’s doubtful everyone will make it out of this tavern alive by storm’s end. Tarantino films are known for 3 distinctive traits: their excessively long, exceedingly violent and extremely heavy on the dialog. This is the first Tarantino movie I’ve seen that didn’t feel like it was close to 3 hours at all, THAT is a sign of how good a movie is; the length isn’t even noticed because you’re too damn engrossed and invested in the story.
The gathering of these 8 characters presents a multitude of interesting personalities, stories and tension that carries all the way to the end credits without a hitch. It kind of feels like a “Who dunnit” murder-mystery-western-stand-off, full of twists and turns that keep you guessing and gasping at the punishing amount of gore that’s being dished out. It’s a boxed in story that never feels confined or restricted. There’s so much life and depth to these shady characters, so much mystery that even when you think a character has figured everything out, you’re shot in the back by the latest sneak attack plot twist and falling deeper and deeper into this film’s expanding western web of lies.
I’ve seen every actor in here dozens of times before, but never have I seen any of them like this. These are career defining roles for everyone involved: Samuel Jackson, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, and Kurt Russell. Everyone is top shelf, grade A, high quality cream of the crop; Tarantino gets the best out of everyone and everything he touches and this is no exception. The tavern and its inhabitants are surrounded by icy snow and even icier characters and you truly feel their sense of isolation. Everything looks rough, dark, and shifty; every set piece and person is hiding something and you can’t help but feel drilled with immeasurable curiosity. What I loved best about this film was the draw these people have; the inescapable attraction created by their mystery and performances.
Obviously by the nature of the plot, you can tell that not everyone in this film is who he/she claims to be. But even when you find out whose lying and who is telling the truth, the captivating complexity of the actor’s performances make their lies feel just as convincing and engaging as their true selves. Even the shadiest of rogues comes off as natural and real as the bullets that slice through them. Make no mistake, this is dialog and violence heavy (per the usual for Tarantino), and it spares no expense on either attribute. But it’s worth it; every minute is dripping with blood and witty banter that kept my eyes unwaveringly locked onto the screen. Not one minute of its 2 hour and 47 minute running time felt sluggish or longwinded, every snowflake and blood splatter felt necessary and kept me crippled with captivation. “Hateful 8” is a blood soaked, western who-dunnit kind of dark magic that doesn’t disappoint Tarantino’s immaculate record in even the slightest. If westerns were made of the same caliber as this film was, I wouldn’t avoid them like the plague. But even if all westerns were as excellent as this one, “Hateful 8” would still stand out as the best amongst the rest of the west.