Some films just have to be seen more than once for the full effect and, in the case of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, you really have to see it on the biggest screen you can find (knowing full well not everyone will have access, alas, to the 70mm prints that seem to be one of the film's raisons d'être). It's one of these cases where a film literally opens up on a second viewing, even if The Hateful Eight is far from being the director's masterpiece and carries a whiff of "look ma, no hands!" showmanship.
Basically a remake of Reservoir Dogs as a grand-guignol And Then There Were None murder mystery disguised as western, it's yet another of Mr. Tarantino's alternate takes on history as rewritten by genre movies, connecting both to Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained's period tropes and to Kill Bill and Death Proof's exploitation smarts. Above all, it's an extraordinarily fetishistic film, probably the most ever in the director's career, in line with the texture and feel of a lost Golden Age of popular cinema; Robert Richardson's masterful work explains why he is one of the most consistently underrecognized American cinematographers around, the gloriously tactile, crisp grain of the 70mm stock coming through even in digital projection. And Mr. Tarantino, ever the master of the grand dialogue tease, knows exactly what he's doing with his virtuoso writing that throws all sorts of verbal and physical violence into the mix, simultaneously honouring and subverting all of the codified genre elements he calls upon.
While there is hardly a flaw in the spot-on casting, it's Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson that anchors the film with the performance of a lifetime as bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (no disrespect meant to anyone else). And if you do feel that the director isn't stretching as much as he is merely exploring a few more back roads of a territory he knows by now as the palm of his hand, you won't be wrong. That is what you get from the film on the first viewing. But, once you settle in for a second time and start paying attention to all the craft details hidden in the tapestry, The Hateful Eight unfolds as such a love letter to cinema, from its lovingly calibrated camera set-ups to the meticulously constructed scripting, that it becomes utterly irresistible.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
US, 2015, 168 minutes (standard print)
CAST Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Channing Tatum
DIR, SCR Quentin Tarantino; DP Robert Richardson (Ultra Panavision 70); M Ennio Morricone; PROD DES Yohei Taneda; COST DES Courtney Hoffman; SP Gregory Nicotero, Howard Berger; ED Fred Raskin; PROD Richard N. Gladstein, Stacey Sher, Shannon McIntosh
A Weinstein Company production/presentation