Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight, is set for release December 25th this year during Oscar buzz season via The Weinstein Company. The gritty western stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Channing Tatum.
In The Hateful Eight, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travellers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…
Full disclosure – director Quentin Tarantino is my favorite filmmaker. Hell, this website is named after a reference in Pulp Fiction. The Hateful Eight was my number one most anticipated film of 2015 (that didn’t have Star Wars in the title). The fully loaded cast, the oldschool camera being used, the fact that this is the second Western he’s done – all the stars were aligned for success. So how does The Hateful Eight stack up to the rest of Tarantino’s filmography? Pretty damn good I reckon.
I’m puzzled as to why Tarantino decided to use 70mm film on The Hateful Eight when most of the three-hour long film is set inside a cabin but I will say that the wide shots of the snowy wilderness during the first hour or so were gorgeous. I would’ve rather he used the crazy expensive film technique on something like Django Unchained, considering that film goes all over the damn place and this one certainly does not. I also appreciate the director’s choice to revisit his glory days of indie film-making by utilizing one location and then hammering the shit out of it with tremendous dialog and explosive performances from an ensemble cast. This is the biggest indie movie that Tarantino has ever made but it sure as shit isn’t an indie and it’s also not a typical blockbuster by any means.
We spend a very, very lengthy time getting to that crazy shit that Tarantino fans know and love. The long wagon ride and agonizing build of tension before anything violent occurs was certainly noticeable and I did find myself asking “why is this movie three hours long and why are we watching them prep the cabin for a storm?” The Hateful Eight is an exercise in tension and no other film in 2015 has done this well of a job. I will admit that I don’t feel the film deserved such a lengthy run-time and I would’ve been more comfortable if it were at Reservoir Dogs length since it was already capturing the spirit of that film in terms of tone.
Think of The Hateful Eight as a murder mystery loaded with a bunch of horrible assholes. There came a point where I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be cheering for. I guess it would be Samuel L. Jackson’s character but there’s a flashback sequence where he does something so foul and so grotesque that I started to question if that was OK or not. The GIMP sequence in Pulp Fiction has a new rival for most uncomfortable moment in a Tarantino film. Holy shit does it ever.
I did not expect The Hateful Eight to be as quiet as it was, considering Tarantino usually overloads his projects with a wealth of memorable music choices. He was extremely selective this go and opted for moments of silence instead. At first I was annoyed but I think he made the right decision in the end. Hell – he got Ennio Morricone to make original Western music for this flick and that’s remarkable in itself. The opening score set to those beautiful sweeping landscape shots was perfection.
Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s onscreen relationship was truly interesting to me as well. One minute he’s punching her in the face and the next he’s wiping some food off her cheek. He’s a bounty hunter transporting her to hang too so there’s that… The bulk of The Hateful Eight is trying to figure out who is trying to stop Russell from his mission and with this group of seedy bastards, it could be any one of them. There is not one weak performance from this entire group so I’m going to mention one that I fear may be overlooked. James Parks as the wagon driver O.B
There’s a scene where Parks comes back into the cabin after being out in the cold and it’s so fucking hysterical that it quickly became one of my favorite moments of the entire film. O. B grabs a blanket and lies on the floor by the fire after nearly freezing – and just the way Parks delivers his lines is genius. Tarantino is one of the best comedy directors of our time and nobody recognizes him for it because his movies aren’t labelled in that category.
Did I like The Hateful Eight as much as Django Unchained, no I didn’t. I didn’t even like it as much as Inglourious Basterds, two films which I feel were paced a little better and didn’t need an hour-plus of set-up. That being said – this flick is still so damn good and I feel that with time and more viewings, that my opinion may change a little. The chaos that erupts after such a slow build is insane, literally insane. I still can’t believe some of the shit that went down in that cabin….
The Hateful Eight is a strange, slow burn of a journey but one that builds into some of the most chaotic, hilarious and shocking movie moments of the year. “Startin to see pictures aint ya” – Major Marquis Warren.