Hateful Eight not that great
I don’t plan to make a habit of movie reviews, but since it was filmed in our neck of the woods, I figure “The Hateful Eight” deserves some consideration.
Having seen and enjoyed most of Quentin Tarantino’s work, I was somewhat excited to hear that his latest piece would be filmed near Telluride.
Add in his decision to film the whole thing on ultra-wide 70mm film and set it to the music of Ennio Morricone, and it seemed a clear winner.
However, while the result is still quite engrossing for a three-hour movie, I didn’t find it to be his best work.
Western Colorado isn’t a backdrop we see a lot in television or film.
Consequently, it was rather nice to see aspen groves and sagebrush on the big screen. Tarantino captures moments of beauty many of us have tried and failed to capture with our camera phones.
In fact, for me, the wintry landscape has the opposite of what I assume to be the intended effect. Instead of feeling isolating and alien, it reminds me of winter excursions and morning commutes.
In any case, the local element begins to fade as the action moves indoors. Paradoxically, that’s also when you really begin to notice the aspect ratio.
Most people, I imagine, don’t pay much attention to whether a movie in the theatre appears in flat or scope. It’s much less pronounced than fullscreen and widescreen were in the days of VHS and tube televisions, although the person changing the masking sure knows the difference.
For me, aspect ratio is most noticeable in old 4:3 films, which I’ll argue has a more dated feel even than black and white.
Panavision 70mm, meanwhile, takes it to another extreme — more than twice as wide as it is tall.
I never managed to make it to Denver to see “The Hateful Eight” in full, glorious film, but even on a normal screen it made an impact.
It pervades every shot, not just the sweeping landscapes.
It encompasses many things at once, filling the frame with background and making the set a character of its own. It invites frames otherwise impossible and lends otherwise ordinary shots a certain tension.
After all, it’s what Tarantino does best.
Without his impeccable dialogue, we’d never forgive him for all the times he’s made us watch a moment of dramatic irony build toward its climax. Two hitmen talking fast food with their soon-to-be victims. A farmer facing down an SS officer as a family hides under his floorboards.
Somehow, nothing in “The Hateful Eight” did that for me. The closest is a flashback scene which, in my opinion, just doesn’t draw it out enough — perhaps because we already know the outcome.
His tendency to recycle actors may work against him here, too.
While Jennifer Jason Leigh’s best supporting actress nomination comes as no surprise, it’s hard not to see Samuel L. Jackson or Tim Roth as some blend of past characters and archetypes. Hardly ideal for a sort of whodunit.
In any case, the conflict is so palpable from the beginning, and so without relief, that the eventual action seems almost anticlimactic.
Remember when a man cutting a man’s ear off was edgy and brutal? In the years since Reservoir Dogs, our threshold for gore seems to have become higher and higher, and Tarantino seems keen to keep ahead of the curve.
It’s a small blessing that “The Hateful Eight” could not possibly have equalled the body count of Django Unchained. The cast is far too small, although by no means limited to the titular characters.
Still, if you consider it a spoiler for me to tell you that this movie is spattered with as much blood red as snow white, you don’t know Tarantino.
It’s an essential aspect of his work.
In many cases, I think it’s warranted. It captures the times, illustrates the capacity of people to hurt each other, and creates a wonderfully jarring juxtaposition with witty banter.
Some of it, though, is ghoulishly cartoonish. Shock value is all well and good, but too much and too long and the audience is liable to get sick, or maybe downright bored.
The long and short of it
If you’re a die-hard Tarantino fan, a cinephile looking for something out of the ordinary, or just an action junkie, it’s probably worth nabbing a ticket. If you loved “Pulp Fiction” or “Inglorious Basterds” but found “Kill Bill” to be over the top, you might give this one a pass.
Will Grandbois wonders who to talk to to get a tour of the set from “Tall Tale.” He can be reached at 384-9105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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