First Hit: A very well shot film that had out loud moments of laughs punctuated on all sides with gore.
Violence is one thing you can depend on in a Quentin Tarantino (Writer and Director) film.
There is no disappoint in this film on that note. Everyone in this film gets a bullet or two. There are also moments of out loud laughs. Some of those laughs come at the expense of absurdity (John “The Hangman” Ruth speaking with Daisy Domergue) while others driven by outlandishly pointed dialogue (Major Marquis Warren speaking with General Sandy Smithers). However, my favorite set of laughs were the issues with closing the door – laughed each time even when I knew it was coming.
There are moments in the dialogue where it seemed that it was being pushed out by the actors and therefore I lost engagement, however those moments were few and far between. Most of the time, the dialogue was so strong, good, and well executed that I was totally immersed in the play of the words.
There is no faulting in any way, shape, or form, the absolutely beauty of the pictures presented on the screen. Even if you don’t like seeing violence, one cannot fault the beautiful way it was shot.
The outside shots of Wyoming, spectacular. The cabin’s close quarters could have felt small and confining, however the film’s format allowed for the real feeling of one large open room for eight people to the interact in and you were there voyeuristically. The storyline around the use of the word "nigger" was OK, not great, as I keep hoping we’ve moved beyond the derogatory use of this term.
Here is it used emphatically to make a point and to paint the connotation of its ugliness when used. The story didn’t hide itself well because both Ruth (Kurt Russell) and Major Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) telegraphed the problem about why all these people were in the cabin without the cabin’s owner being present.
Although there were a number of “Acts”, I’m not sure why the 3rd was so long in comparison. There was an obvious break part way through the third.
Lastly, I’d heard that the film was designed to be shown with a 10 – 15 minute intermission. Our theater did not do this and ran the 187 minute film straight through. Not that I needed or wanted an intermission – I personally don’t like them – despite its length, time went quickly while allowing each scene to breathe and develop.
As Major Warren said at one point: “… let’s slow it down… let’s slow it way down.”
Jackson was bombastically present in this role as if it was made for him. When he’s laying out a lengthy discourse about his being on the right side of justice, he’s perfect. His eyes telegraph his intense nature. Russell was effortlessly and gruffly suspicious. Wrapped up in a large coat, hat lowered on his forehead, and a face full of hair he was an impeccable rendition of a lone bounty hunter. Jennifer Jason Leigh was oddly amazing as a wanted woman being brought to justice by Ruth. Like a caged cat, her defiance of her keeper, and her hatred towards blacks spewed forth in hisses. Truly a remarkable performance (Oscar worthy). Walter Goggins as newly appointed Sheriff Chris Mannix was very strong as he vacillated between being weak to get an advantage or strong when he was in control of varying situations in the cabin. Demian Bichir as Bob, the suspicious Mexican holding down Minnie’s, was very good stirring the soup of dialogue from time to time. Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray the man who hangs people dispassionately was very strong. Interesting that his take so reminded me of Christoph Waltz, that it was a bit eerie. The part could have been done by Waltz but his power would have been too much for the film. Michael Madsen as Joe Gage the quite brooding man with semi-hidden agenda was wonderful. Bruce Dern was great as the old Southern General Sandy Smithers. James Parks as stage coach driver O.B. Jackson was very good especially in the scene when he comes back from the outhouse after dumping the guns in the hole. Channing Tatum as Jody was great to see. It isn’t often that Tatum plays a heavy and he did this well. Tarantino wrote a mostly wonderful fleshed out script. There were a couple of times where it felt forced or a little stilted coming from the actors, but overall it was very strong. The direction was superb. The camera angles, the broad vista shots, mixed with the wide 70mm lens showing the dance of each of the characters was perfect. The dark humor mixed in with intense situational dialogue was great.
Overall: This is a strong 8th film by Tarantino and helps his resume.