My thoughts on THE HATEFUL EIGHT, which I can only really review by talking about its score by Ennio Morricone:
We all know that Morricone is an unparalleled Master of film music. His history is rich with some of the most memorable scores, from the spaghetti western days and the groundbreaking music of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY through to the incredible soundtracks for THE UNTOUCHABLES, CINEMA PARADISO, and THE MISSION, this new entry is a welcome and solid new installment for a composer who is now 87 years old.
There has been a lot of Morricone’s work in previous Tarantino films, but it was all licensed material of previous work. For THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Tarantino went right to the source, and Morricone didn’t disappoint, delivering powerfully thematic music that breaks open the narrative and adds new dimensions to a film that, otherwise, is a middling effort from Tarantino. From the descending melody line to the pulsating drums and churning drone of the low strings, the score makes the film feel bigger, wider, and more stark and suspenseful than the movie might have otherwise been in the hands of any other composer. It’s impossible to ignore the power it drills into the film, and you will leave with its hypnotic and insistent melodies running ‘round your brain.
But its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness. As masterful as the music sounds, its effectiveness may be more accidental than intentional. I couldn’t escape the feeling that the music was pre-written and adapted to the picture, more like a licensed use would be, rather than a collaborative effort with the filmmaker. This may not even be the case, but so much of it feels recycled and repurposed that I couldn’t ignore it. Also, mixed in with the score are several Morricone pieces that actually are licensed, pulled from other earlier works of his.
It all amounts to THE HATEFUL EIGHT being an effectively entertaining Quentin Tarantino film, which is to say, it has all the Tarantino elements in place: long, talky, undeniably cool dialogue; amazing cinematography and auteristic direction; brutal sense of absurd violence juxtaposed with comedic timing; and over-the-top music selections to power its retro-contemporary feel. In other words, it’s Tarantino Remixed, and the biggest difference might be that there was also a custom score added to the ingredients.
As much as I love it, it’s not the Oscar-winning score I hoped it would be. This is in no way the fault of its composer; rather, it is the result of the filmmaker’s vision—and I don’t know that there was a better approach available for this film. Having said that, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that Morricone has never won an Academy Award (other than an honorary one), despite multiple nominations, so I would be happy to see him finally win one here. The film itself will mostly be remembered for not being RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, KILL BILL(s), and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, ending up alongside JACKIE BROWN and eventually DJANGO UNCHAINED in the collective memories of film-goer.
The movie is too long, but damn, it looked glorious in 70mm, so if you still want to see it in a theatre, find yourself the Roadshow version. It’s totally worth it.