Movie Name: The Hateful Eight
Release Date(s): December 8, 2015 (Premiere)/December 25, 2015 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) has got his woman. Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is being escorted to Red Rock to be hanged for her crimes. When Ruth encounters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) on the road as a storm blows in, Ruth begins to worry that he is walking into a trap. When the blizzard traps the party at Minnie’s Haberdashery, they find themselves with a retired Confederate officer Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), a writer named Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), an English hangman named Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), and a Mexican named Bob (Demian Birchir)…and one or more of them isn’t who they seem to be.
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is a Western action film. Following Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012), Tarantino’s script was leaked early which caused production problems and changes in the story. Tarantino also stirred controversy by supporting a Black Lives Matter event which led some to call for boycotts of the film. The movie was released to positive reviews and won an Academy Award for Best Original Score with nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Leigh) and Best Cinematography.
Tarantino is sometimes hit or miss for me. Though many loved it, I didn’t love Inglourious Basterds, but I did enjoy Django Unchained. The Hateful Eight falls between Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds for me. It has its moments, but it also isn’t Tarantino’s best movie.
The story is the movie’s good and average part. Tarantino doesn’t fill it with show-stopping long dialogue that doesn’t drive the plot forward (which is sometimes his problem), but it does have plenty of speeches that do relate to the story and help round the characters. Some who expect a bit snappier dialogue might be let down by this, but I like it better. I didn’t like the sudden introduction of a narrator (Tarantino himself) halfway through the film, and found that aspect very “Tarantino-esque”…if they had established a narrator at the beginning, it wouldn’t have bothered me. It just felt thrown in there to be Tarantino.
I like the standard plot of strangers at an inn with coincidental connections. It is a little bit of Ten Little Indians where you know one (or more) of the people are not who they seem, and it is the film’s job to lead you to guess. I like the guessing part, but I feel that there was a little too much build up to the inn and some of the beginning could have been cut (but that was also some of the best cinematography).
The movie looks and sounds fantastic so shortening the beginning would have been a mistake. It was primarily shot in Colorado (near Telluride) and utilizes the scenery great. The blizzard and snowstorm have a chilling effect on the whole film and makes it feel even colder and more brutal. Generally characters trapped in a one room set would have very little change up in photography, but the set designers built it great and the set was used perfectly to add variety. Plus, in normal Tarantino fashion, the movie gets really bloody.
Tarantino often is as good as his actors and the cast is great. I think Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh were the biggest scene stealers, but everyone was strong. This is the type of movie that Samuel L. Jackson excels in and his bombastic acting style doesn’t feel out of place…plus, no one stares down a person like him. Kurt Russell did a great John Wayne…he did it better than John Wayne since Wayne wasn’t that great of an actor. Tim Roth (though a frequent Tarantino player) feels at this point to be playing Christoph Waltz who seems to be a Tarantino favorite now. Tarantino has a way with getting actors into interesting characters even in small roles. I’d love to hear the story of Minnie (Dana Gourrier) and her husband (?) Sweet Dave (Gene Jones).
The Hateful Eight is a good movie and if possible it should be seen on the big screen. Westerns are almost always a feast for the eyes and when you combine the feast with someone like Tarantino, you are going to get something original. Even if you do have problems with Tarantino, he is always going to give you something new and unique…and debating its merit is half the fun.