Just like his previous 7 feature length films that have all been exceptional in their own way, the 8th film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino opens with a beautiful landscape (or a close-up shot introducing the characters, depending on the film) shot of the period in which his film takes place in and the credits that usually follow when the final frame fades to black. Exactly what filmmakers would do in decades past – Tarantino’s love for film making and the art of it bursts through the screen in the opening moments. So much so that the director doesn’t shoot on digital, The Hateful Eight is instead shot on 70 mm film gauge – a technique that is now taboo in the industry. If anyone is holding on to the craft of cinema, keeping it alive, its Tarantino. And each film of his only benefits in the long run.
Aptly titled too might I add.
Following debatably his best film Django Unchained, the director’s next film has big shoes to fill. Keeping well within the revisionist western genre, The Hateful Eight has all the typical tropes the director has used over the course of his career. If you don’t know what to expect going into a film by Tarantino than you aren’t paying close enough attention. Set in the wilderness of Wyoming post-civil war, an impending blizzard brings the unsuspecting characters together before reaching the destination of Red Rock.
It happened in Minnie’s Haberdashery with poisoned coffee and a pistol or two – whodunnit. More than halfway into The Hateful Eight is when this deceptive plot takes form. Things aren’t what they seem, and the players of the game add an additional layer of mystery to the story.
I envision Tarantino as a sculptor or someone who makes pottery. Shaping his film with a level of hand-crafted detail that most manufactured products don’t have. Each story is unique from the next, never duplicated though they may feature similar theories and themes. Tarantino is in full control, making sure his final product is pristine and perfect just the way he envisioned it when picking up the chisel.
For another near 3-hour film by the director, letting the film get to the point it’s trying to make is a lot of patience to ask for from viewers. But it’s worth the journey to get to that moment when the mounting tension picks up more speed heading into the final blood-soaked hour of this murder mystery. But within that is the skill of well written dialogue between characters that are part of a bigger deadly plot.
On his way to Red Rock Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting a collected bounty and killer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hung for her crimes. With the blizzard breathing down their necks, Ruth, and his driver O.B. (James Parks) stops at Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait out the storm along with Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). The former another bounty hunter with three bodies of his own to collect and the latter, the new Sherriff of Red Rock. The plot thickens.
While the other four of this “Eight” wait patiently at Minnie’s. There’s Marco aka Señor Bob (Demián Bichir), Pete Hicox aka Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Grouch Douglas aka Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Though Smithers doesn’t play a role in the set-up, Dern still has his moment of glory. The final member is Jody Domergue (Channing Tatum) who sets the events in motion to rescue his sister from the hangman’s clutches.
Told in chapters as only Tarantino does best, breaking up the story is easier to ingest the longer run time. That and Tarantino can’t write a boring character if he tried or a character with no purpose to the overall narrative. Set mostly in one location, the runtime breezes by once the purpose of the film makes its way to centerstage. With dense dialogue and interesting character arcs, Tarantino has the skill of grabbing the viewers’ attention and keeping it firmly right where he wants it whether its for an interaction, a scene, a chapter, or the entire film – however he sees fit. To do that, Tarantino gets the best out of his cast. Each one commits fully to their role within Minnie’s Haberdashery.
Leading the way is Samuel L. Jackson who was just the sinister Stephen Warren in Django, playing a complete opposite hero role. Something Christoph Waltz accomplished between Inglourious Basterds & Django. As a frequent collaborator with Tarantino, Jackson fully understands how to approach his character. Written with an inherent likability, Jackson leaves room for some mystery in playing Major Warren.
The Hateful Eight is full of familiar collaborators – from Michael Madsen to Zoe Bell to Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell, and James Parks. They know what they signed up for – an auteur whose vision is brought to life and fully executed as only a perfectionist could. If the narration sounds familiar, it’s Tarantino himself.
Going into a Tarantino film much is to be expected. A strong script, outrageously captivating characters with ulterior motives, strong language, a gorgeously framed film, and violence. When all these aspects hit their peak in The Hateful Eight, Tarantino transforms into a conductor – no character is ever safe from getting a bullet, hung, or poisoned in this case. And leave it to the brutal nature of these deaths that heighten the thrills once the momentum hits its climax.
Due to a leaked script in 2014, Tarantino changed the ending of his film. Id say for the better after learning what the original was. Rather than having one giant massacre, each character’s death scene is given a higher emphasis. The death matters, Tarantino gives death purpose no matter how vicious and grotesque it may be. Leave it to Greg Nicotero Of Day of the Dead & The Walking Dead to make the carnage look authentic when the bullets begin to fly in the condensed claustrobhic location. It’s over the top like in every previous film minus Jackie Brown but its unique to the story.
There may not be much purpose to a story where every character dies, but Id argue the opposite, Tarantino brings life to the characters while in their presence. In a room full of deception and misleading nature, the tense atmosphere perfectly resonates when the story gains momentum chapter after chapter. The Hateful Eight is just more proof of Tarentino’s genius at storytelling.
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Music By: Ennio Morricone
Cinematography: Robert Richardshon
Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Channing Tatum
Release Date: December 25, 2015
Running Time: 2 Hours 55 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
My Score: 3.5 out of 5