LOVE TO HATE THESE EIGHT.
Set in the mountains of post-Civil War Wyoming, The Hateful Eight brings together a band of eight weary travelers who seek refuge in a haberdashery during the middle of an intense storm. While held up in the cabin, these eight strangers begin to reveal their true intentions of their visit over the course of one day. When tensions escalate, Tarantino's signature blood-soaked chaos begin to envelope, as the truth about each traveler's situation and identity begin to reveal themselves.
The Hateful Eight is basically Tarantino taking a lot of steps to direct a movie just like Tarantino. It definitely checks off each box of what we have come to conclude as his "signature style". That being said I still love his style, and this movie smothered me with it. It's amazing how a director can keep your attention with just dialogue. It's been said about Tarantino's writing many times, but it definitely holds true in this film. I really only had a few minor issues with the movie, most of which involved a little excessiveness in certain scenes, but again, that is just Tarantino's style. I would of also liked to have heard a bit more of Ennio Morricone's score used throughout the film as well. When it hallowed through the movie, it was great, and set a very dreary old west kind of atmosphere.
Overall though, my experience with The Hateful Eight was great. The acting and writing are both at center stage here, and they both deliver very well. I also feel this is the most unique movie Tarantino has done. I left the theatre feeling I had just witnessed a play filmed in a very stylized, and beautiful way. Speaking of the filming of the movie, I absolutely loved watching this movie in the intended 70mm "road show" version. The aspect ratio really gave it a unique feeling, and the set was beautiful and rich with detail. I really wish more directors would take a similar approach to filming.
In the end, the movie has been has been jumping in and out of my thoughts since I've seen it. The acting, the directing, and the writing were all top notch. Filled with a unique atmosphere and incredible characters, I loved watching every scene and conversation unfold in front of me. This is a movie that is begging to be watched multiple times, and that is something I intend to do as I direct each characters actions. This isn't my favorite Tarantino film, but like any of his film's, I left the theatre having experienced something unique and engaging. I loved it.
The Hateful Eight is a movie that grabs you with its incredible characters, dialogue, and beautiful cinematography, before it bashes you over the head with its over the top violence and vulgarity. The characters and dialogue are the stars of this film, and provide a great foundation for this incredible murder mystery set in a beautifully detailed western atmosphere. Tarantino is still at the peak of his game, and The Hateful Eight is a very unique chapter in the career of one of Hollywood's most unique directors. Well done.
For a more detailed review of this film, read below...
Divided into six narrative sequences, the story begins with a stagecoach carrying two passengers across the Wyoming frontier. These two passengers are John Ruth "The Hangman" (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When the stagecoach, piloted by the only non "hateful" character in the movie, O.B. (James Parks), pick up a mysterious bounty hunter stranded on the middle of the road, John Ruth decides to allow the passenger to travel with them after he recognizes this is someone he has met before. This bounty hunter is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a famous Civil War soldier who fought for the North. As the stagecoach begins its journey towards the group's destination of Red Rock, the group come across yet another stranded individual, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Mannix claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, and convinces Ruth and Warren to help escort him out of the storm. With the blizzard intensifying, the group decide to take refuge at the only place known in the immediate area, Minnie's Haberdashery.
The rest of the film takes place within, and just outside of, the walls of this haberdashery. Minnie's also houses the remainder of the hateful eight characters, who are held up to seek shelter from the intense Wyoming storm. After establishing that it is his intention to take Daisy to Red Rock to hang, John Ruth quickly begins to question the motives of the other men who are seeking refuge inside the haberdashery. The rest of the film slowly and methodically unravels the mystery and intentions behind each of these characters before reaching an all out blood-filled, and unforgettable conclusion.
Quentin Tarantino is in full "Tarantino" mode here, with the majority of the film's story being told over long conversations between each of his wonderfully hashed-out characters. The film's six chapter narrative structure is mostly linear, with one of the chapters taking place in the morning leading up to the night in which the rest of the film takes place. With each proceeding chapter, the story builds like a slow burning fire, with clues to the mysteries of each character revealing itself with a faint flicker in the background. What is so captivating about this film, as with most Tarantino films, is its ability to capture and hold your attention through the interaction of each of these characters just through their conversations with one another. The dialogue is vulgar and raw, yet precise and elegant. No surprises here, it's brilliant.
The film takes a turn after the halfway point, as it evolves into a western version of a Clue stage play. When it is finally revealed in the flashback chapter of the film who some of the characters really are, the tensions really begin to build as we finally get a clear picture of what the master plan behind all of the mystery is. It wouldn't be a Tarantino film without an overdosage of violence. This film is not absent of such thing by any means. Though it takes a while for the violence to snowball out of control, when it hits, it hits hard. Some scenes were a little too over the top, even by Tarantino's standards. I sometimes began to feel that Tarantino was trying his best to outdo his own style when it comes to violence. Still, it provides a bit of intensity, and even hilarity, in a film that remains mostly calm up until that point.
The story aches to be seen more than once, as there is a lot going on in the background of what seems to be a situation when nothing is going on at all. Tarantino is a master of keeping things hidden until the right time, and this story provides no exception to that rule. There is quite a bit of character backstory, and in a film that's three hours long, it often was just a little too much. Though the dialogue here is mostly great, it definitely leads to some road blocks in terms of moving the story forward. In the end, though, this is a fun and flashy mystery story that slowly spirals into insane, violent madness. The movie begs to be seen multiple times, something I plan on doing in the future.
Most characters in this movie are surprisingly fleshed out and interesting. With eight characters to cover, Tarantino did an amazing job of giving each of the hateful eight a unique and interesting personality. With so much dialogue and development of all these characters, it's no wonder the film runs over three hours. I loved the characters in this film, and could honestly see each of the hateful eight having their own movie, something I wouldn't mind seeing myself. There are other characters that make an appearance in this film, but most of which don't have much of an involvement in the development of the story outside of just being figures to manipulate.
As probably the least hateful, John Ruth "The Hangman" is a man of conviction and determination. His character is known as the hangman because, unlike most bounty hunters, he doesn't just shoot his target in the back when the opportunity presents itself. It is within his duty and his character to bring his targets to justice, which as Major Warren says in the film: "If John Ruth The Hangman catches you, you hang." Ruth is still a rough, tough, take-no-chances son of a bitch, though. He has no issue cracking Daisy over the head or in the face if she gets out of hand. Kurt Russell gives one of the best performances I've seen from him in a long time, and is a match made in Tarantino heaven. He delivers his dialogue with wit and a very raw old-time western feel.
As probably the most hateful of the eight, Daisy Domergue is a vile, racist, and mysteriously dangerous prisoner. A person who speaks exactly what is on her mind, Domergue takes very little liberties in forming any sense of likability from other characters in the film, let alone the audience. Played with absolute conviction from Jennifer Jason Leigh, Daisy is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and not to be taken lightly just because she is a female. She definitely belongs at the top of the hateful character chain. Leigh gives a brutally brilliant performance.
From his first look into the camera, I knew Major Marquis Warren was going to be an interesting character. As someone with a well established history of killing during the Civil War, Major Warren always brings a sense of danger whenever he is in a scene. His character maintains the smartest throughout the film, as he begins to glue pieces of the puzzle together ever since he first gets to Minnie's. The character is brought to life by Samuel L. Jackson's normal charismatic and powerful personality. He's just great as a cool and interesting bounty hunter who brings plenty of flare and great dialogue throughout the film.
The character and performance that stole the show for me was Sheriff Chris Mannix, played by Walton Goggins. As someone who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix still presents himself throughout the film as a bit untrustworthy. As a racist Confederate sympathizer, Mannix has really one of the only complete character arcs from the entire film. He definitely brings a lot of laughs when he's not being a hateful racist asshole. Definitely my favorite character and a true standout amongst so many great performances. My goodness did Goggins completely rule every scene he was in. His performance is truly Oscar-worthy, though it will probably go over-looked by the Academy. I hope him and Tarantino work again, as I think his acting style fits in with the dialogue.
In his third film with director Quentin Tarantino, Tim Roth makes his return as Oswaldo Mobrey, a charismatic Englishman who claims to be the new hangman of Red Rock. Roth is great as usual, and provides a lot of laughs as well as a distinct, if not a bit cartoonish, character.
Playing the most racist and arguably outspoken character in the movie, Bruce Dern commits as the role of General Sandy Smithers. As a former Civil War general fighting for the South, General Smithers delivers some great dialogue and presents a sharp contrast of morals and philosophy of Major Warren. Dern delivers some great, if despicable, dialogue while on screen, and is a great addition to the Tarantino universe.
As probably the funniest character in the movie, Bob "The Mexican" is played to great comic relief from the wonderful Demian Bichir. Bichir offers plenty of great subtle quips and jabs as he mixes in his lines with both Spanish and English, with his over the top and caricatured version of an amigo from Mexico.
Rounding out the hateful eight is Joe Gage, played by Tarantino alum Michael Madsen. Joe Gage remains the most mysterious of the group throughout most of the film, as he does not have much in the way of back story. Still, Madsen plays the character well and gives him a very mysteriously dangerous persona.
Tarantino is one of my favorite directors working today. He makes stories his way, and doesn't care what others think of his material. He is a master of controlling the audience, and playing with their emotions. The Hateful Eight provides no different approach to this type of manipulation. With a film that heavily relies on delivering dialogue, Tarantino provides a very nice space for his actors to be great. The since of atmosphere he provides while inside the haberdashery is spectacular, as he convinces the audience that these characters actually are stuck in this cold, hostile environment. Tarantino decided to do the studio shoots in freezing cold temperatures, in order to simulate the harsh conditions these characters are presented in. In an interview with one of the stars of the movie, they claimed that you can't "fake acting cold". It definitely shows in authenticity here.
Having decided to shoot the film in Ultra Panavision 70, the movie is presented in a unique aspect ratio that no other film maker uses today. This is more than just a gimmick though, as you are able to see more of the interior of the setting, therefore leaving something that is always going on in the background. I loved this aspect of the film, and seeing it projected in 70mm was as beautiful as it was unique and essential to the story.
One of my favorite parts about Tarantino's directing style is his decision to hold on characters during long stints of dialogue. He's great at cutting just at the right moment to an object, or an expression on another character in order to emphasize certain emotional reactions to what is being said. There is no shortness of this in The Hateful Eight. The film takes its time to deliver its dialogue, and slowly flesh out the characters and build the climax and conclusion of the story. One of my few criticisms is that it does indeed take a little bit too long to unveil some truths behind the plot. That being said, I could listen and watch Tarantino's characters for hours on end spewing his dialogue, so this was only a minor gripe.
Tarantino's over the top violent outburst of bloodshed reaches its pinnacle in the latter half of this film. There is a brutally slow build up to what is bound to be a bloody shootout, and Tarantino delivers some beautifully shot rampage. Is the violence a little out of hand in some situations? Yes. I learned to accept that though, and chalk it off as just a stylistic choice more than a necessary choice.
Overall, Tarantino is still at the peak of his game here. I think this film has a lot more layers than what may be presented on the surface. Great dialogue, slow but methodical pacing, and a beautifully bloody orgy of violence are at the core of the artistic choices Tarantino makes. For me, I was enjoying the ride the entire way.
Bloody good time.