Samuel L Jackson! Mystery! Carnage! Now that any reasonable one of you is successfully hooked, I’ll begin. The Hateful Eight is, as the advertisements state at every chance they get, the eighth film directed solely by Quentin Tarantino. It is a Western style film set in post-Civil War Wyoming during a cold winter, and features an excellent ensemble cast, of course comprising of eight main actors, each with their own story fleshed out to just the right degree. Tarantino’s love for classic filmmaking is something that really shines through in the Hateful Eight through his cinematography, distinctive characters, and engaging storytelling.
A reasonable portion of my appreciation for the film came from the knowledge behind the film rather than the film itself. Tarantino filmed in Ultra Panavision in 70mm, a method not used since the 1960s. On top of that, he included an overture and a special roadshow version with an intermission and an increase runtime, all to pay tribute to the mid-1900s roadshow releases with the same format. Since the casual moviegoer will not likely have knowledge of these facts before viewing this film, some of that appreciation will be lacking. This, however, will only increase the more formal moviegoer's appreciation for the film because of the knowledge that what they are about to experience was made by someone with a true passion for what they’re creating, someone who cares more about making something great than about how much it will make at the box office.
True to classic Tarantino style, the almost three hour film is split up into chapters, each with a proper title foreshadowing what is to come. The first two chapters follow the four more "main" characters of the eight as they ride through the snow to a stagecoach lodge on the way to the town of Red Rock. The most stand-out performance by far was Samuel L Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, a Civil War general turned bounty hunter, who led more than a few memorable scenes throughout. Also introduced were Walton Goggins as Sheriff Mannix, Kurt Russell as John Ruth "the Hangman", and his prisoner Daisy Domergue, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. It is in these first chapters that the cinematography and soundtrack are really allowed to take effect and set the mood for the rest of the movie. The wide shots provided by the Ultra Panavision provide an amazing view of the landscape and much to explore in every shot, while the award-winning soundtrack masterfully injects suspense into each scene.
The last four chapters of the film take place entirely inside the lodge, where Demián Bichir as Bob the Mexican, Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray, Michael Madsen as Joe Gage, and Bruce Dern as General Smithers are introduced. Considering the runtime, one would think it impossible to keep an audience engaged with such a limited setting over such a long period of time. It entirely depends on the person, but my interest definitely never lowered throughout the movie and I never felt it was dragging on. This is due to the amazing performances of the entire cast, combined with the captivating dialogue between the characters and the complex yet easy to follow storyline. This is not to say you won't get to experience some over-the-top Tarantino violence, and when it arrives, it is glorious. That being said, anyone who is not familiar with the excess blood and carnage that is characteristic of Tarantino movies might be caught off guard, so be warned, as it has been described as "inexcusable" by some. Humor is also present throughout the movie, although you will mostly laugh out of surprise because of a character acting in the afore-mentioned shocking or overviolent way. The rest of the humor mainly lies among the witty and realistic interactions between the characters, for example the several instances of sarcasm or insults exchanged between them.
Now of course the question becomes "but will I like it?" I certainly loved it, and it was a truly immersive experience. The only criticism I have towards the film is that a couple scene transitions were a bit too abrupt for my taste. Otherwise, every aspect of it came together to create a truly enjoyable experience for me. But, considering its box office earnings so far and the fact that dialogue-based movies similar to this are the ones my friends walk out of the movie theater on, it is not for everybody. If you are the type of person who finds dialogue and story driven movies entertaining, then this is the movie for you. If you are the type of person who only watches movies for flashy fight scenes and explosions, you might want to bring a pillow with you to the theater.