Engaging but over-indulgent, Quentin Tarantino's foray into duplicitous murder mystery hooks you in the build-up, but doesn't quite deliver in its pay-off.Unfortunately, eight films after his low-budget breakthrough Reservoir Dogs proved how much he could do with so little, Tarantino revisits surprisingly similar ground, preparing an elaborate single-room setup within which his characters can rant, rave, backstab, betray and bloody one another. Yet for all the things he has learnt across the decades, one of them certainly isn't in the enough-is-enough, excess-for-excesses sake department, with the rebel filmmaker now so far removed from the punch-lines of his elaborate tales that he appears to have lost sight of the need for a successful, satisfying pay-off, instead trading in the kind of anticlimactic twists that are at the heart of all the very movies that are now criticised for ripping off his patented style.The Hateful Eight succeeds in the seemingly inconsequential minutiae: a letter supposedly written by President Lincoln, and the effect it has; the post-war hatred which elicits the movie's only significant 'classic Tarantino diatribe'; the haunting Morricone score playing as characters desperately rig a line in the midst of a blizzard; the in-fighting and betrayals which keep you on tenterhooks about who is going to turn on who. At times he appears in full control of this chamber piece, with tension in the least expected places, but it’s distinctly hit-and-miss, with the auteur’s own narration heralding a series of messy explanations that ultimately leave you questioning whether this was really a tale worth taking three hours to tell.
Picture QualityEiV’s Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of The Hateful Eight promotes the feature with a lavish 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in Tarantino’s suitably epic aspect ratio of 2.76:1 widescreen, maintaining the grandness of the 65mm film format which the director famously elected to shoot on.
By maintaining its broad scope, The Hateful Eight retains its epic presentation even on the home format.
Detail is outstanding, lapping up every nuance of the wider shots, which were designed to better appreciate the ensemble cast despite the inherently restricted locale, with many of them sharing the screen at the same time for key sequences. The colour scheme is almost monochromatic during the external shots, taking in the broad snowy vistas and open expanses, keenly juxtaposed against the warm and richly wooden interiors, with the latter sequences commensurately skewed slightly yellow to further emphasises the warmer ambience. Whatever niggles you might have on freeze-frame inspection, this epic presentation remains largely jaw-dropping, and earns top marks for sheer awe.
Sound QualityThe Hateful Eight’s accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a glorious aural accompaniment to the piece.
Promoting the key dialogue up front and centre, with prioritisation over almost all of the rest of the elements, it’s only really Ennio Morricone’s marginalised score (slightly underwhelming in its under-usage, though overwhelmingly effective and wholeheartedly immersive during key sequences) that holds more presence, adding some surround and LFE usage and bringing the piece to life (when it’s active). Atmospherics allow the freezing cold environment to come to life during the first few acts, with the bleak environment becoming overpoweringly invasive through harsh winds whipping across the stage; whilst the latter interior sequences bring the creaking wooden environment to life, peppered with punchy gunshots that ring out across your living room. It may not quite be top-of-the-range, feeling somewhat diluted (again through the sheer runtime, which leaves Morricone’s score, for example, arguably stretched too thin), but it’s not far off.
Steelbook ExtrasWith no signs of the Roadshow Version of the film, and only a small selection of extras - limited to just a couple of brief Featurettes which skirt around the 5 minute mark, one looking behind the production and the other looking at the 70mm look of the film - this feels inherently like double-dip territory. However, as Kill Bill's long-gestating (perhaps never to be seen) Whole Bloody Affair has only shown, it's certainly not worth waiting around for that.
With a couple of impressive Steelbooks on offer, it's hard to resist grabbing HMV's UK edition now.
Although not adopting the distinctive monochrome - and red blood stained - carriage artwork showcased on the US Best Buy Exclusive release, HMV's UK variant is arguably just as (if not even more) impressive, boasting a gorgeous embossed frame and title, and suitably matte finish to the distinctive snowy white-and-blue artwork. It'll likely end up being on many best-steelbooks-of-the-year lists.
Blu-ray VerdictStrangely, for a Tarantino piece, there's nothing truly memorable here. Sparks of genius, but no genius sequences; not even memorable quotes or even memorable moments really, leaving you to wonder what would be worth revisiting and sacrificing another 3 hours of your life to get to. Ultimately Tarantino's come full-circle, in a strange sort of way, returning with a film which echos his debut Reservoir Dogs, but, rather than show just how far he's come, instead - ultimately, with its over-indulgence - it merely reminds us of just what he's become.
Across the last few films, Tarantino's strokes of genius have felt increasingly diluted by swathes of over-indulgence.
At least this UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release continues the visual (and aural) grandeur of the production, promoting it in epic style, made all the more lavish with HMV's gorgeous Steelbook release. Don't wait for the Roadshow Version to magically pop up in a decade's time, pick this up now.
You can buy The Hateful Eight on Blu-ray here
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