Quentin Tarantino does a handful of things very, very well.
One of them is the “table scene” (our very own Chris talked about that here in the middle of a bunch of comments that you should seriously go back and re-read). Another is using violence as an art form. Yet another is making a movie that is a tribute to movies.
One of the things that he might do better than anyone else is put together elements for a perfect collision.
Way back in True Romance, he put together a way for putting together multiple elements on a collision course. A bunch of mafia goons who were wanting their cocaine back, a bunch of police officers wanting to arrest cocaine dealers, and a bunch of private security meatheads who were not interested in getting arrested. Any two of these elements meeting up would have resulted in the situation being, ahem, messed up… but having all three of the elements meet in the same place at the same time resulted in a situation Messed Up Beyond All Recognition (MUBAR, as it were).
The Hateful Eight is another, brilliant, collision course.
On the surface, this is Quentin Tarantino’s homage to The Western. The movie overflows with tropes with everything from the long and lovingly crafted shots of a carriage travelling across a beautiful and dangerous landscape to the former Confederate soldier making a new life for himself somewhere in the frontier to the cabin fever encountered by several different parties who all happen to end up in the same haberdashery during a whiteout blizzard to a score penned by Ennio Morricone(!). Quentin takes these much loved tropes and then goes on to paint the screen red.
If you’re just watching on the surface, there is a huge amount to love about the film. The textures of everything from wood to fabric to facial hair will take you out of the movie for a moment from time to time and make you say “wow… the prop guys did an *AMAZING* job here.” (And, in the second half, “wow… the special effects guys did an amazing job here.”)
Back when we discussed Django Unchained, my opening comment was “Holy crap, Quentin Tarantino has extraordinary talent. I wish he had something to say.” I may have to take that back, after seeing this one. He actually says a few very, very interesting things about the Civil War, about the death penalty, and about the nature of Justice (and the difference between Justice and Revenge).
The setup is simple. Kurt Russell is a bounty hunter transporting Jennifer Jason Leigh to a town where she will be hanged for her crimes. Along the way, his carriage picks up a couple of travelers… one is Samuel L. Jackson. Another is Walton Goggins. These four, along with their carriage driver, wait out a blizzard at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they meet Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Michael Madsen.
These guys all have stories, and secrets, and skills that reveal themselves as the movie progresses and some of them are telling the truth about their stories and some of them are lying through their teeth. The skill with which QT shows you things while hiding other things from you (even as he tells you “I’m hiding some pretty essential facts from you with this shot”) is sometimes maddening… but then Tarantino gives his reveal of what he made you spend several minutes wondering about and you realize that you had been holding your breath.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should know that I think that you should see it… but not if you’re particularly squeamish. There are tons of awful ways to die and Tarantino shows us at least four distinctly different gruesome ones.
If you have seen the movie, holy cow! Wasn’t Samuel L. Jackson’s character great? And the scene where you’re begging Tarantino to show you everybody’s hands so you can see what color gloves they’re wearing and then he lines them up for you and they’re all wearing black gloves? And seeing Channing Tatum in the opening credits and then forgetting that he was in the credits and then he shows up and you say “OH YEAH CHANNING TATUM WAS IN THE OPENING CREDITS”? And the “Domergue’s Got a Secret” chapter opening? Jeez! This movie was so freaking awesome! On the surface, anyway.
I’m still trying to figure out whether I liked it beneath the surface. The closing to my review of Django Unchained seems appropriate to this movie as well: “I’d feel like criticizing QT for making a movie like this one… except, of course, he’s the only one who is making movies like this one.”
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)