The Hateful Eight, 2015
Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, James Parks, Zoe Bell, and Channing Tatum.
In post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunters try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Will they survive?
The Hateful Eight (the eighth film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino) is unlike anything currently in theaters. There hasn’t been an experience like it in over 50 years, and there’s a strong chance that if you miss out on one of the 70mm, Ultra Panavision projected Roadshows, it’s an experience you will never have in your life.
From the overture of Ennio Morricone’s hauntingly tense score, to the intermission at the midway point that allows viewers to chat it up with strangers discussing various elements of the narrative (most probable will be the “who-dun-it” aspect of its Agatha Christie reminiscent plot), also giving you a chance to free your bladder and refill your beverages (at 187 minutes you’re going to be thankful for the opportunity), The Hateful Eight is a cinematic event. Not necessarily in the same vein as a cultural phenomenon like Star Wars, but something for unabashed cinema aficionados, Quentin Tarantino fans, Western fans, moviegoers in search of something different, and generally, anyone that likes a good fucking movie.
Even if by some small miracle, someone can’t become enamored by the hints of betrayal and mistrust, punctuated by multiple sequences of lengthy politically fueled conversations and ruptures of mass bloodshed, the cinematography on display is beautiful to an unparalleled extent due to the aforementioned stylistic filming decision chosen by Quentin Tarantino. Some may come under the impression that it’s only the white hell of a blizzard and other nature panoramic shots that benefit from the much added depth and detail on-screen, but even the two hours or so set in Minnie’s Haberdashery have uses found for the technology.
If you’re unfamiliar with the setup of the story, there are all sorts of people from all walks of life holed up in a cabin from different races, genders, and post-Civil War backgrounds. Factoring in that there’s a bounty hunter handcuffed to his prisoner of $10,000 in value, under high alert with the impression that one of the other six individuals in the room, or maybe even multiple parties, are not who they say they are, but rather are in cahoots with murderous outlaw Daisy to free her, and it’s no surprise that claustrophobic tension rises. Thanks to the 70mm Ultra Panavision projection, that essentially allows a 15% increase on the screen’s width, viewers are able to watch characters more carefully, which becomes of the utmost importance once the building is sectioned off into North and South territory, also containing neutral ground.
What transpires here is that transcendence from all of these players acting as characters, to becoming real life grounded counterparts to the American populace at the time. In that regard, a lot of the back-and-forth banter comes across as Quentin Tarantino’s most assured and mature work to date; there’s something raw and real oozing out of the orifices of nearly everyone involved. To fully appreciate The Hateful Eight in both thematic context and as an engaging mystery, it will undoubtedly require multiple viewings; the conversations are rich (despite the fact that Chapter 3 might go on for too long than its own good) while the cinematography offers up many instances of clues that will easily be missed the first time around. The very beginning of Chapter 4 is actually Quentin Tarantino narrating a brief moment that I’m almost positive was actually in the frame, yet so many people will miss. There’s also much to debate; some conversations are left ambiguous due to unreliable circumstances, which most intriguingly add new layers of characterization to the personas present.
And speaking of those personas, well let’s just say Quentin Tarantino is working with what is arguably the greatest ensemble cast of his career. Samuel L. Jackson plays the sassy back-talking black man you would expect him to play, while Kurt Russell and Walton Goggins chew up the scenery and spit it out. Kurt Russell has been around the block, but Goggins is the revelation here, putting in a performance so eccentric and filled with a strange vibe of glee for the situation he finds himself in as the sheriff of Red Rock, he’s a pure delight. Sure, he stole some scenes in Django Unchained, but given a major role now, the man takes the ball and runs with it, making you beg for Quentin Tarantino to cast him as a pivotal character in every film from here on out.
It’s Jennifer Jason Leigh though, who not only turns in a more subdued and restrained performance (after all, the first half of the movie basically sees the captor getting physically abused anytime she speaks or makes a sudden movement), that walks away as the show-stealer, and your potential front-runner for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Coming back around to that 70mm projection, watch all of her facial expressions and slight mannerisms whether she is in the foreground of a shot or the background. None of this is even accounting for her rough, raspy voice, elevating the character into something more than a prisoner in distress, but someone who almost deserves every bit of punishment flung her way after once having your sympathy. It’s a flawlessly measured performance.
Everyone else is serviceable, and you’ll definitely remember them, whether it is Bruce Dern’s quiet portrayal of a Confederate general vile racist of a human being, or Channing Tatum who has a surprise role (I won’t spoil what it is) that will assuredly please. The Hateful Eight has characters with depth portrayed by actors that, under the wildly off-beat direction of Quentin Tarantino, come alive in ways that are the very definition of unforgettable. Everyone here is despicably charming, filled with amusing bits of dialogue that will have audiences howling with laughter. They are also products of their time yet contain a slice of social relevance to the world today.
As you would expect, the movie ends in a cacophony of bullets piercing flesh, but what’s most fascinating is that this is somehow Tarantino’s most violent film next to Kill Bill, which is probably impossible to top. Nevertheless, the gore and brutality on display here continuously ramp-up throughout the hour-long climax that flies by in what feels like 10 minutes. The first three chapters may be deliberately slow paced, but in the end it’s all worth it.
Each half complements the other in ways that contrast the dialogue heavy portion with the inevitable extreme violence, justifying the surface-level absurd length in both thematic and entertainment value. By the end of The Hateful Eight it’s crystal clear that you have witnessed something epic, and for as overused as the word “epic”is in modern journalism, this is one such film where it fits the bill. Furthermore, the closing scene, amidst harrowing brutality is poetically powerful, and is without a shadow of a doubt, Tarantino’s crowning achievement as an auteur.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars