The Hateful Eight (2015)
No one to trust. Everyone to hate.
I mean, most people already know if they will enjoy watching a Tarantino flick before they watch it. He has that particular style that bleeds into near any movie he's attached to. I'd say that this is at least in some extent true with The Hateful Eight, so the question becomes more if someone wants to sit through a near three hour long Tarantino drama. Well, I can't tell you for sure if you'll like it, but I can sure report what I thought of it.
Our plot here is one part who-done it and in a way a bit like a slasher movie. You see, this is a slow burn kind of plot - heck, you don't even really get to the main setting till about 40 minutes in! We start off with a horse carriage coming across a man standing in the snowy path in front of it. He declares who his is and his desire to hitch a ride with his three (dead) bounties, and the driver informs him that it isn't his call, but the man inside. The man inside would appear to be rather a bit untrusting - which is understandable considering his live bounty inside that he'd rather not share. Still, after having the man give up his weapons to the driver, he allows him to hitch a ride. The two exchange some banter, and we learn that they are both bounty hunters looking to cash in on their respective bounties in the next town.
It isn't long until they come across another man on the road - again without horse - looking to catch a ride. This time, it's a rather known southern rebel who claims to be the next-in-line for sheriff at the town they are heading to. He is allowed to catch a ride, but not trusting him at all the original passenger decides to re-arm his first hitchhiker - whom he does know to at least some extent - before letting him do so. We get some more exchanges passing out more information about the characters pasts, until they finally arrive at the midway point - the main setting of the movie. It is here the main story unfolds, and it is here we will spend most of our time.
Suffice it to say, there are plenty of little details sprinkled about the story (felt more so like a story thanks to "Chapter" text blocks intersecting portions of the movie) that end up being returned to at a latter point when the movie finally reveals everything that happened it previously left everyone guessing on. The characters, stuck in this environment and mostly all distrusting and with little knowledge of each other play off of each other rather well and the little stop-house ends up turning into a powder keg of paranoia threatening to explode into that typical Tarantino violence.
The main portion of the "who done it" comes from just plain trying to peace together what's all going on in the first place. One character will let on accusations or observations about something, while other characters may have something seemingly unrelated going on with each other. At first, it's all just a jumble of seemingly unrelated things that are to convenient to not be more than coincidences but by the end it all ends up laying itself out in a rather believable fashion - even with some things still feeling a bit like more than coincidence. A strange thing happens between two sections, where a narrator elaborates on something that the movie was apparently too busy to show previously after not existing for the entire movie until then by backtracking into the last chapter - and promptly isn't heard of again until pretty near the final act. I do suppose it works fine, but it would have been just as easy to show it the first time and not need to spoon feed the audience that particular part - especially after already leaving all sorts of bread crumbs throughout.
Actors do a splendid job here, as one would expect. It's a good thing they do, as well, as it's pretty near the only main draw to this movie in the first place. It's a bit of an issue when your playing out a big drama like this, so I won't particularly blame the movie itself, but it really is that slowly burning line of powder leading up to a keg - and despite those tensions rising, there isn't a whole lot that actually happens as it goes on. Still, the line delivery is great, and even though parts of the world cease to feel authentic each character is at least distinguishable from the rest at a glance and listen. It feels like there was care to give each character a personality, even if you don't care in the slightest about the character and whatever length of time they spend on screen.
Costumes play well into lending each character their own feel, and the set does a good job of setting the mood as well. There were moments when the imagery and music evoked images of The Thing as I watched, and although it may not have involved aliens it still provided an ample feel of isolation to make the tension easier to build. Outside of those few particular moments, I don't recall much of the soundtrack on display here, but that isn't a terrible thing considering that most the time my focus was on the characters and the story being told.
If you don't like Tarantino's movie DNA, then I can't say that this one will particularly be breaking any molds for people. It's a decent enough story that's told well and very well acted, but one can also expect that certain level of violence and language and subject matter than is oft displayed in one of his works. The ending wasn't entirely expected - at least not in the details - but it also felt that there was a bunch of the movie that probably could have been shaved down to get it a bit away from that 3 hour run time without causing a whole lot of damage.