The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight ★★★★

***Based on the 70mm roadshow version***

Is it possible to love a movie and feel slightly conflicted about loving it? If "The Hateful Eight" is any indication, certainly so. From the beginning, it's both a familiar Tarantino effort and unlike anything he's done before. The characters and setting may seem like a retread, but stylistically this is a very different director. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the 70mm format, but this is a movie made up of long, patient takes, with most camera movement much more muted than in past Tarantino joints. (Or at least more muted than "Django Unchained," which seemed to feature at least one crash zoom per minute.)

Before the intermission, it also might be Tarantino's most ambitious film. Ultimately, this movie is a deep, deep dive into American ugliness... particularly male American ugliness. For a while it seems like Tarantino is going to use this claustrophobic tale to probe issues such as racism, guns, sexism, etc., and in the movie's first half it throws its cast of despicable characters against each other in exhilarating fashion. Much of this movie is Tarantino rubbing America's nose in its own waste, and for that reason your mileage may vary.

After the intermission, I'm slightly less sure of what is accomplished. It's thoroughly enthralling, but once the movie's central "mystery" is solved, the final 30 minutes or so feels a bit like carnage for its own sake. I'm positive Tarantino is going for *something*, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Or maybe he just wanted to indulge his inner gorehound, which wouldn't be out of character.

Really, this last chunk of the movie is why I'm slightly conflicted about my love of the whole. If it felt more satisfying, this would be a 4.5/5-star movie in my book. However, he seems to enjoy wallowing in the gore a bit more these days than in the past, and I'm not sure I enjoy it quite as much as he does. It works, which is why I don't take the rating down further, but leaning into the brutality like he does almost does a disservice to all the brilliance that came before.

But again, I want to emphasize... I loved this movie, particularly the 70mm presentation. The opening credits alone are gorgeous, and I want to pump Ennio Morricone's main theme directly into my veins. And yet, I completely understand the somewhat mixed reaction this movie is getting. Even for Tarantino, this movie is fundamentally ugly, and the carnage isn't exactly easy to stomach once it kicks in. It's also a movie precisely nobody else in the industry would or could make, and much of "The Hateful Eight" is a reminder of why he is so, so good at what he does.

I could probably ramble all night on this, and I might ramble further after a second viewing. I could see my rating going any of a million ways then.

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