Writer & Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum, Zoë Bell.
There are movies, there are arthouse films, and then there’s cinema. Most works released fit into the first category, good or bad, we go to the movies. A handful of films approach the medium with something more artistic to prove, they are not constructed for mass appeal, film becoming an expression for something more ethereal and sometimes sublime. Cinema is harder to pinpoint. Perhaps because we don’t get much cinema in general, it’s becoming less and less common to watch a feature length and stand in awe of what was seen. Again, cinema can be good or bad as well, but the majesty and magnitude of what was seen can only ever be captured as a movie. Too many times I walk out of a film and think that it would have made a fine television episode or TV movie. I appreciate the story, even absolutely love it, but I am not in awe of what was accomplished. Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Titanic, Schindler’s List, last year’s Birdman: these are cinema. Movies that leave you impressed with the visuals, with scores that stick with you, the scale of production so larger than life, are breathtaking. The only movie I had seen so far this year that fits the bill, surprisingly, was Mad Max: Fury Road. Until I saw The Hateful Eight. This was pure cinema.
This is the closest to a Christmas movie Quentin Tarantino is ever going to make. I will begin by saying that since watching Reservoir Dogs all those years ago I have been a huge fan of the director, eating up each and every one of his servings and always wanting for more, panting as I waited for his next outing. I have not disliked a single one of his works. His new movie is being billed as the author’s eighth, which means that the two volumes of Kill Bill are being regarded as a single work. In reality it should be referred to as movie 8 1/4, given that Tarantino directed a segment in the film Four Rooms. 8 1/4 would also be more fitting since Fellini has always been a point of reference for Tarantino, and is frequently alluded to in some of his past films, and given that this film does have the number 8 in the title the connection makes even more sense, as Fellini simply and appropriately named one of his most famous features 8 1/2.
Tarantino’s new movie is also his first self referential film. The director has always looked back when crafting his movies, especially to spaghetti westerns, exploitation movies, grindhouse films, etc. However, this time around he drew inspiration from the aforementioned Dogs as well, cheekily harkening back to his own debut. It’s not a chance that the cast of this film includes Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, two of the same actors whose memorable turns in that first film helped make the film the success it was. They’re not the only familiar faces, though. This is the second time Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, and Bruce Dern work with the director, Zoë Bell’s fifth, and Samuel L. Jackson’s sixth. The film also takes place in the same universe as the director’s last film, Django Unchained, and a little piece of trivia provided by the director links this movie to Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino was clearly having fun when constructing his new adventure.
The movie reads as a bloody and violent grownup version of the game Clue. It’s a western in which all the characters are trapped in one room and not everyone is who they say they are. I will spoil absolutely no surprises, because there are many and it would be brutally unfair to say anything about what happens. Part of the fun is trying to guess each person’s motivations, and switching suspicion from one character to another with no resolution until things are too late. The cast is perfectly matched. The seasoned actors already have proven that they know how to work within Tarantino’s crazy messed up little world, and the new additions to the company fit right in. I say company, because the film feels almost like theater, and that is a high praise. The standout of the film is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who mesmerizes as the bizarre, quirky, and dangerous Daisy Domergue. Any accolade coming her way is completely deserved. Ennio Morricone’s score is also fantastic. We are so used to a Tarantino movie being a hodgepodge of a soundtrack, amassed personally by the director and carefully assembled, so to have for the first time a largely original score in the place of a collection of tunes adds a nice quality to his work. The fact that the composer has, with John Williams and James Horner, arguably crafted some of the most iconic and recognizable passages of movie music ever recorded only shows that Tarantino knows who the best collaborators are.
The film highly deserves, like all of the director’s films, its R rating, but should be seen by all who call themselves movie fans. At nearly 3 hours it’s quite long, but I honestly didn’t look at my watch once. Sometimes a 90 minute film can feel infinite. This 170 minute work went down as easily as the best of holiday pies. It’s laugh out loud funny, it’s horrifying, it’s captivating, it’s mesmerizing. It’s the definition of cinema.