Quentin Tarantino is one of the only directors making movies today who could get away with a three hour running time. He’s also probably the only director who could get away with having an overture and intermission. Does Tarantino earn such a lengthy running time with The Hateful Eight, though? For the most part, he does. Yes, the film does drag at times. Yes, Tarantino has made superior films. In the long run, however, there’s little doubt that The Hateful Eight is one exhilarating ride.
The movie plays like Stagecoach with profanity and buckets of blood thrown into the mix. Kurt Russell puts on his best John Wayne impression as John Ruth, a bounty hunter handcuffed to Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue. Ruth is hell-bent on escorting the fugitive Daisy to Red Rock alive so she can receive a proper hanging. Along the way, they come across an African American bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and an alleged sheriff named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins).
The greatest strength of Tarantino’s movies has always lied in his characters. Sometimes all Tarantino needs to do is put a group of people in a room and let them play off each other. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what he does in The Hateful Eight. Much of the film is set in a haberdashery where the travelers stop in the midst of a blizzard. They come across even more colorful characters, including an elderly Confederacy general played by Bruce Dern, a hangman played by Tim Roth, a Mexican caretaker played by Demián Bichir, and a mysterious cowpuncher played by Michael Madsen. All of these people have huge personalities and the actors all do a sensational job at breathing life into them.
Some people may grow wrestles during the first act of The Hateful Eight, which is surprisingly restrained by Tarantino standards. There’s a lot more casual dialog than there is action. Fortunately, Tarantino’s characters are always so fascinating to listen to. Even when their conversations seemingly go nowhere, you’re always curious what exactly will happen to them next. Tarantino more than delivers in the film’s second act, in which all hell breaks loose.
Without giving too much away, not all of these strangers are what they seem. As this becomes clear, The Hateful Eight transitions into a murder mystery with one of the most thrilling Mexican standoffs you’ll ever see on film. As over-the-top as it becomes towards the end, the film maintains the quaint essence of a play. It’d actually be a blast to see this performed live on stage, although it’s still a blast watching on the silver screen.
The Hateful Eight isn’t as revolutionary as Pulp Fiction, as epic as Inglourious Basterds, or as much fun as Django Unchained. The fact that this isn’t his magnum opus is just a testament to what a masterful filmmaker Tarantino is, however. The Hateful Eight drips with Tarantino’s passion for filmmaking and his flare for dialog that can’t be replicated by anyone else. Intimate while being bombastic, familiar while being fresh, and brutal while being beautiful, it’s a film unlike anything else you’ll see all year.