As soon as the opening credits began on Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight," I knew I was in for a unique experience. The credits themselves appear old-fashioned and the great Ennio Morricone's score is playing as they roll, the expansiveness and desolation of the snowy area is shown, and then all of a sudden, Samuel L. Jackson appears on screen, "Got room for one more?"
"The Hateful Eight" stars a lot of Tarantino alumni including the aforementioned Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, and a slew of others. It centers around a group of people being stuck in a haberdashery in the middle of a blizzard in Wyoming, and when things go awry, suspicion grows and the whole thing turns into a "whodunnit" that few would expect to see coming.
As a movie buff, I've seen a lot of Jackson in my lifetime, and I do mean a lot, though never seemingly like this. A while back I recall watching "The Winter Soldier" with a friend of mine and he said to me during it, "Samuel L. Jackson always seems to play the same sort of characters the same way in his movies, only slightly different sometimes," a valid statement. Though, that is not the same Jackson in "The Hateful Eight," it is an ensemble cast but he leads this film. While what he says is usually riveting, it elevates to a level I was not prepared for, and the physical comedy and the delivering of his lines must be spoken of. Jackson isn't the only noteworthy performance, as it would be criminal to not mention Kurt Russell's "John Ruth" and Jennifer Jason Leigh's "Daisy Domergue."
Right on cue, Tarantino has written another dynamite script that has something for all film fans. Every moment of the run time is spent contemplating, laughing, or studying these characters and their actions and that is a credit to serious writing. The film runs three hours at a slow pace without ever feeling like it's three hours; it's that captivating. I've seen a lot of whodunits, I've seen a few westerns, and none has hit the subtle comedic strides "The Hateful Eight" hit. At times, it seems like a blend of "Reservoir Dogs," a group of violent, untrusting degenerates in an isolated area and "Django Unchained," the Civil War era setting and the western feel.
Much like a lot of westerns, Tarantino dedicates time to setting. We get several beautiful shots and pans of the landscape to solidify the isolation of the area we are put into, leaving us never to ask "Why don't they just leave?" It doesn't just end there. Once everyone has arrived at the haberdashery, Minnie's, it is such a claustrophobic area that we are shown very fluently, we know where everyone is, know where every item is (the fireplace, coffee pot, dinner table) and that only helps place us into the mystery and allows us to keep an eye on everyone. As my friend, Jennifer, said before I saw it, this movie could easily be adapted into a stage play.
"The Hateful Eight" contains more than just Tarantino fan service, the violence and witty dialogue, it contains a captivating mystery wrapped in a western. This movie is a welcome addition to a great storyteller's filmography, and quite possibly my favorite film of 2015. I can't wait to add it to my personal library.
Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to mail my ticket stub to the New York Police Union. Ciao.