You ever read a book that was a literal page-turner you just couldn’t put down? That happened to me once. I was sick one day in college and decided to start reading Michael Crichton’s “Rising Sun.” I was so engrossed by the story that I finished the book that same day.
That’s how I felt watching “The Hateful Eight.” Writer and director Quentin Tarantino had me hanging on every word. I couldn’t wait to find out how the story would end while not wanting the movie to end at all.
Tarantino is this generation’s most gifted cinematic voice and “The Hateful Eight” combines his talent for writing brilliant dialogue with an effective buildup of tension and suspense. While not Tarantino’s most complex work, this feels like his most fun. What better word to describe a mystery involving a group of scoundrels stuck together in a blizzard where everyone seems to be out for themselves?
The cast is a gathering of some of Tarantino’s usual players (Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen) as well as some new talent (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir). This stellar ensemble is obviously having a blast playing Tarantino bad guys while giving some of the best performances of their highly touted careers. We’ve all seen Tarantino veterans deliver his witty lines in their unique styles, so I was intrigued by the performances of the new wave. Bichir is a blast as “The Mexican,” eliciting laughs with his cartoonish line reading. Leigh is also a gem as “The Prisoner” who may or may not have an accomplice in the group. At times it feels like we’re supposed to feel sorry for her and the abuse she takes, but then she jolts you back into remembering that she’s a hard-core killer.
If there is one overall standout, Walton Goggins had me glued to his every word as a man who’s about to become sheriff. His performance could have easily crossed the line into cartoonish but he delivers a perfect and memorable performance, a feat that’s even more impressive considering this supporting cast.
The usual Tarantino signature moves – gory violence, graphic language and memorable dialogue – are on display, but “The Hateful Eight” feels like his most polished work as a director. The cinematography is gorgeous. The score is engaging. The camerawork is effective and the editing is spot on. All of this produced a film that made me laugh out loud and drop my jaw in shock while constantly guessing, sometimes all at once.
“The Hateful Eight” is the best time I had at the movies all year.