“The Hateful Eight” Movie Review


     I’m sure I’ve written this before, but I’ll say it again and likely not for the last time.  No one writes like Quentin Tarantino and we will never see anyone who will write like him again.  That a screenwriter would have the ability to concoct just one brilliant script during his or her career would be a milestone.  Tarantino has provided us with exceptional and wholly original work for over two decades and shows no sign of slowing down.  You’ll recognize this fact immediately as you settle into the first scene in his new and self proclaimed 8th film, “The Hateful Eight”, a chilly, wintery, ultra violent Western shot in the glorious Ultra Panavision 70mm film format.  For fans of the director, “The Hateful Eight” will signify a sort of return to the tone and basic set up he used in his first film, 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs”, as a group of scummy criminal types descend upon a remote cabin during a blizzard that halts their travel.  

     Taking place several years after the conclusion of the Civil War, we are immediately introduced to the film’s three main characters during a stage coach ride through a snowy Wyoming mountain pass.  John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a notorious bounty hunter known for taking his prisoners alive so they can hang, is transporting his latest catch, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to Red Rock where he intends on cashing in on a $10,000 reward for her capture.  With him is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Confederate Soldier turned bounty hunter who is also on his way to Red Rock with three corpses of lesser value and has hitched a ride after his transportation gave way to the cold.  And this is just the beginning, where Tarantino infuses a mere ride through the icy wilderness with enough juicy dialogue to surpass 99% of the movies that came out this year.  The banter between Ruth, Domergue, and Warren blends hilarity with a certain mean spiritedness in a way only Tarantino could muster, setting up the initial stages of what will become a tangled web of intriguing double crosses and bloody mayhem.

     Eventually, the trio, along with their driver, O.B. (James Parks, who is the son of Tarantino regular Michael Parks), take on a fourth passenger, a fellow named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims to be the next to be pinned Sheriff of Red Rock.  In other words, the man both men will be paid by when they arrive.  So they agree, quite skeptically mind you, to bring him along, even if they believe he’s not who he says he is.  Part of the plan was to stop at a remote watering hole for the night that both Warren and Ruth are familiar with.  The cabin, named Minnie’s Haberdashery is a common stop for travelers who look to settle for the night before continuing on their journey.  When the group arrives, all is not as they remember.  A Mexican guy, who calls himself Bob (Demian Bichir), greets them at the entrance and tells Ruth both Minnie and Sweet Dave, the owners of the establishment, have left him to care for the place while they visit her mother.

     After we are exposed to just how difficult it is to put horses away in a barn while dealing with an all out blizzard, the group enters the cabin and we are introduced to the other players that make up the film’s title, unless you count the driver in which we are actually dealing with nine characters, but maybe he’s not the hateful type.  Seated throughout the parlor are Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and the aforementioned Bob, who seems to be playing the role he claimed he was tasked with doing by ensuring the guests are accommodated.  Even by this point, which is still in the film’s first of three hours, Tarantino has planted several seeds of suspicion in every character, all the while ensuring the stakes are high with the substantial bounty Ruth has chained himself to.  Just through conversation ranging from normal to racially charged, the characters begin to establish sides and ensure that practically every second is filled with tension and uncertainty as to who will strike first.  If any of them were smart, they would’ve left the place after fifteen minutes and found somewhere else to stay for the night.  After all, there’s no way your going to sleep, much less turning your back on any of these people who are all displaying obvious signs of being snakes in the grass.

     Fans of Tarantino’s work know the filmmaker prefers to tell his stories with a non linear timeline and “The Hateful Eight” is no exception with its familiar “Kill Bill” style chapters and important portions of the plot being presented in a different order than they actually happened.  Regardless, Tarantino’s characters here are expertly developed and full of life with each passing scene.  Tarantino knows that in order to get to know someone, you talk to them.  And that’s what these characters do, they talk to one another about their pasts, their politics, and their ambitions.  What we get out of that as an audience is an immersive experience in which the inevitable boiling over of the proceedings packs such a wallop that your heart will pound all the way out of the theater.  More so, you’ll be laughing as though you just watched the year’s best comedy in a way that only Tarantino could come up with.

     I’m lucky enough to live in one of the 44 cities which “The Hateful Eight” premiered in on Christmas Day as part of the “Road Show” where the film is being shown in glorious 70mm.  The last time I was able to see a film in this format was at a showing of 1997’s “The Edge” at Mann’s Theater in Mission Valley, San Diego which closed long ago and was replaced by the sprawling multiplexes we know today.  Some of you may remember when theaters had just one giant screen with a two tiered auditorium, showing films printed on this giant super wide format.  Tarantino shot “The Hateful Eight” using Ultra Panavision lenses that hadn’t been in service since the late 1960s, ensuring the scope of the many outdoors scenes shot in Colorado, as well as the cavernous interiors of Minnie’s Haberdashery, would give movie goers their full impact.  Just as the great road show films of the 50s and 60s, such as “Ben Hur”, you are provided a play bill (a souvenir full of photos and details about the film and cast) when you enter the theater and greeted with a musical overture as you make your way to your seats.  There’s even a 15 minute intermission at the perfect moment to break up the film’s over 3 hour running time.  Now the digital version hitting theaters on New Year’s Eve will contain none of these features, and you won’t once again hear the film reels spinning from behind you as I did, but “The Hateful Eight” will play just fine in digital as well and stands out as one of the best films of the year.  Aside from Tarantino’s Oscar worthy script, the performances, particularly those of Jackson, Russell, Leigh, and Goggins with his entertaining hillbilly outlaw Mannix are outstanding and come together as one of the great ensembles of 2015.  “The Hateful Eight” is fun, surprising, brutally violent, and every bit the film we have come to expect from one of the most brilliant filmmakers of our time.  GRADE: A