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Josh Reviews The Hateful Eight in 70mm!

This past weekend I was delighted to have the opportunity to enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s new film, The Hateful Eight, in its 70mm “Roadshow” presentation.  More details on this limited special version of the film can be found here.

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Mr. Tarantino made the unusual decision to shoot The Hateful Eight in Ultra Panavision 70, a long-out-of-use format that uses 70mm film to capture an exceptionally wide image (in the very wide aspect ratio of 2.76:1).  This is a far wider image than the standard widescreen movie image.  While an adjusted, digital version of the film is being released to theatres in January, for a few weeks The Hateful Eight is being released in a special “Roadshow” format, in the intended aspect ratio, and on 70mm film.  This version of the film has been slightly extended by Mr. Tarantino, incorporating some longer takes of certain scenes.  (More details can be found here.)  It also includes an overture at the start of the film and an intermission in the middle.  Audience members also received a cool over-sized playbook for the film as a souvenir.

I loved this presentation of the film.  Everything about the “Roadshow” was designed to make the experience of going to the film feel special, like an event.  This was very cool.  And I was quite fascinated by watching a film in this super-wide format.  The format allowed Mr. Tanantino, working with cinematographer xx, to create some very gorgeous, very unusual compositions.

And so how was the film itself?

It was excellent.

Now, this isn’t one of Mr. Tarantino’s greatest works.  In many respects, it is a far simpler film than most of Mr. Tarantino’s other movies.  There is little of the complicated, jumbled chronology of many of Mr. Tarantino’s earlier films, nor is this film as jam-packed full of plot and incident as many of this other films.  The Hateful Eight unfolds at a far more leisurely pace than most of Mr. Tarantino’s films.  The story is, in many respects, far simpler.  And it basically only takes place in two locations — inside a horse-drawn coach and then, for the rest of the film, inside “Minnie’s Haberdashery” in the middle of a blizzard.

But I sort of loved the simplicity of the film, the way Mr. Tarantino allowed the story to slowly unfold, and the characters to slowly unwrap themselves, over the course of the film’s almost three-hour run-time.  No one, and I mean no one, can wring suspense out of dialogue the way Mr. Tarantino can.  I love the way he slowly tightens the screws on the characters and the audience, and as the film progresses the tension builds and builds and builds.  When the violence comes, it is — as is always the case in Mr. Tarantino’s films — an incredible explosion of over-the-top gore and chaos.  There’s an appeal to the violence in Mr. Tarantino’s films — even as it is always, at the same time, stomach-churning and upsetting — but what’s so magical about Mr. Tarantino’s films, and The Hateful Eight in particular, is that you’re not impatient waiting for the violence to arrive.  Quite the opposite.  We know that violence is coming.  It looms like a Sword of Damocles over the entire movie.  And in many ways I didn’t want that violence to arrive!  I wanted the characters to keep talking, both because I adore Mr. Tarantino’s beautiful dialogue but also because I started rooting for certain characters and wanted to see them talk their way out of the situation rather than falling victim to terrible violence.  This gives the film a remarkable tension that Mr. Tarantino is able to play like a master, extending to the breaking point.

As always, Mr. Tarantino’s film is a phenomenal showcase for his actors, taking some famous big names and some lesser-known but equally-wonderful character actors and giving them an unparalleled opportunity to show us what they can do.  I hesitate to tell you anything about the characters, because a major pleasure of the film is seeing what happens when these tough hombres all find themselves trapped together during a blizzard, and how they (and we the audience) gradually discover one another, their stories and their secrets and their true intentions.  But let me just say that the entire main “Hateful” eight characters are all spectacular.  Mr. Tarantino gave Kurt Russell an amazing character in Death Proof (Mr. Tarantino’s half of the under-rated Grindhouse), but he’s topped that here with Mr. Russell’s work as John Ruth, “The Hangman.”  Mr. Russell is phenomenal, extraordinary, magnificent.  A great actor in a great role.  It’s a rare Tarantino film without Samuel L. Jackson, and Mr. Jackson has been given one of his very best Tarantino roles here as Major Marquis Warren, a Union soldier turned bounty-hunter.  Frequent Tarantino collaborators Michael Madsen and Tim Roth are great as always.  At first it seems that Walton Goggins is playing a very similar character to the one he played in Django Unchained, but that was a very clever move on Mr. Tarantino’s part, as you are immediately forced to question whether anything Mr. Goggins’ Sherrif Mannix says is true.  Jennifer Jason Lee and Bruce Dern are both spectacular.  And so is Demian Bichir, whose every line-delivery I found hilarious.

Those are the main “Hateful” eight characters, but there are actually two more.  James Parks (who Mr. Tarantino has some great roles lately) is terrific as the stagecoach driver O.B., and there is one other character played by an actor I had no idea was in the film until I saw his name in the opening credits.  I won’t spill the beans here, I’ll just say he is brilliantly cast and does a tremendous job.

There’s not much more I want to say about the film.  It’s best experienced completely unspoiled.

Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film is every bit as unique, as remarkably and distinctively “Tarantino” as his previous seven films.  There are aspects of this film that are reminiscent of his other films, but also like each of his previous seven films, The Hateful Eight is unique unto itself.  For those of you who enjoy Mr. Tanantino’s style, this latest film represents three hours of pure cinematic bliss.  Personally, I loved it, and I can’t wait to see it again.

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