There are people who worship Quentin Tarantino. And, I suspect, there are people who can’t stand his movies. I’m very much in the middle. He’s turned in a couple of clunkers (Deathproof and Jackie Brown spring to mind) and he’s done one very nearly perfect film (Pulp Fiction). Everything else he’s done falls into the category of “Hey, that was pretty good.” The Hateful Eight is no exception.
What the film has going for it is a crackerjack script, amazing performances and fantastic cinematography. (I got a chance to see it in its 70mm format, complete with an old school overture and intermission.)
The film is mostly a closed-room mystery. Who’s not who they claim to be? Who did what bad thing and why? That kind of business. Which is perfect for a filmmaker so focused on dialogue like Tarantino. But, because we’re constantly trying to figure out who to trust, we have no one particularly to root for. We’re never inside the skin of any character. That makes the deaths (Spoiler alert! More than one character dies!) less about emotional involvement, and more about the gore effects that accompany them. And they’re pretty amazing. But still, since precious few characters are truly innocent, and every little victory is tarnished, there’s no real gut-punch moments.
I sound like I’m down on the film. I’m not. I’m just trying to make clear (without spoiling anything) why I can’t call this film great. It’s really close, but the structure alone keeps it away from that level for me.