“The Hateful Eight”
*This review is for the 70mm Roadshow, which is an extended cut in select theaters.
My reviews for Quentin Tarantino’s films have become increasingly repetitive over the years; my thoughts as well. I generally feel the same way about all of his films. They are big, bold, bloody, ingenious, absolutely glorious, and I tend to love them. After hearing the mixed reactions towards Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film The Hateful Eight, I was a bit worried. It currently holds a 76% approval rating on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes–which is good, but not nearly as strong as Tarantino’s other outputs–and I started reading reviews full of the adjective “disappointed.” Well, this review is going to feel rather similar to my other reviews of Tarantino’s films, for I must have found something within The Hateful Eight that a lot of my critic counterparts failed to uncover. The Hateful Eight continues Tarantino’s pattern of success, being equal parts a bold, bloody exercise in style, an ingenious pitch-black comedy, an uncompromising satire, and a glorious thrill-ride through Hell itself. Best movie of the year? Yeah, I think so.
I was fortunate enough to be able to see The Hateful Eight in 70mm–only a select number of theaters are showing it this way–and it was one of the most thrilling and fun moviegoing experiences of my life. I’m sure that seeing it digitally throughout the coming weeks will be a pleasing experience as well, but if you have the chance to see the 70mm Roadshow….do it! It’s well worth the extra couple dollars per ticket.
Tarantino’s conviction and loyalty towards this old and rare type of filmmaking is palpable. Beginning with an unsettling overture over a blood-red picture of the outline of the mountains, the opening shot of a lone crucifix statue in the middle of a snowy wasteland that follows sucks you into a world for which you have never experienced before in your life. Just a simple shot of the face of the statue hanging over the screen is overwhelming. As the music swells, we see a stagecoach being pulled by six horses in the distance. In that stagecoach: bountyhunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) along with their driver O.B. Jackson (James Parks). Ruth is transporting the fugitive Domergue to a town called Red Rock in order to receive his reward of 10,000 dollars for her live capture, but the journey is interrupted by a blizzard as well as two individual stray men both on their way to Red Rock as well and in desperate need of shelter. These two men are fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and soon-to-be sheriff of Red Rock Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). They both hitch a ride with Ruth and soon find themselves within the shelter of Minnie’s Haberdashery.
It is under the roof of Minnie’s that our five characters meet the remainder of the titular “Hateful Eight.” Tim Roth plays the charismatic Oswaldo Mobray who just so happens to be the hangman who will be in charge of hanging Domergue; Michael Madsen plays the quiet and aloof cowboy Joe Gage who is on his way to spend Christmas with his mother; Bruce Dern plays Civil War general Sandy Smithers; and Demian Bichir plays Bob, the current caretaker of the haberdashery while Minnie is away visiting her mother.
Tarantino has a special gift for writing ruthless, destructive, even tormented men and women in his movies. From Uma Thurman’s role as the revenge hungry “bride” in the two Kill Bill’s to Samuel L. Jackson’s scripture spewing hitman in Pulp Fiction, there is a ferocity to his characters that is as riveting as it is, well, badass. The wide-range of characters within The Hateful Eight are no exception. One could call this film Tarantino’s most deranged and gleefully malevolent creation yet. Each of its central characters are men who will stop at nothing to take what’s theirs and they have no problem killing anyone who steps in their way. They are men who do evil deeds knowing that their destiny lies in Hell, but don’t care due to the fact that they are the kind of men that, once they meet Satan, will shake his hand and call him “Lou.” One must also realize the amount of acting prowess that went into building these anti-heroes and, after this movie, it is rather undeniable that Samuel L. Jackson is a singular cinematic treasure.
Cinematographer Robert Richardson is one of only two living persons who have won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography three times. He has been nominated eight times and I am sure he will gain his ninth nomination this year. Tarantino, along with Richardson and composer Ennio Morricone have crafted something glorious. On the surface, this is a riveting, bare-knuckle brawl to the mind and a one-two punch to the senses with all of the usual Tarantino expectations (black humor, brilliant, quotable dialogue, ferocious, hungry masculinity, Sam L. Jackson, and enough gore to fill an ocean), but it’s also a love letter to the art of filmmaking. The passion involved in the making of this film is practically visible within every frame; every frame seeming like a beautiful work of art. The use of 70mm works not only to give the final product an old-fashioned feel, but to remind us that cinema is not just a diversion or even entertainment, but art.