Synopsis: 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?
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Walton Goggins, Channing Tatum
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Running Length: 187 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: It’s hard to believe that as prolific as Quentin Tarantino has become, The Hateful Eight is only the eighth feature film released by the man with the manic energy and mad love for all things cinema. Starting off strong with Reservoir Dogs in 1992 before hitting the mega big time with 1994’s Pulp Fiction, Tarantino has developed a definite style that he can reign in when he wants or let loose in most outrageous ways.
Last represented in 2013 with Django Unchained (which netted him his second Oscar for Best Screenplay), The Hateful Eight almost never saw the light of day as early script leaks frustrated the director. Thankfully, Tarantino’s got good friends and they encouraged him not to be deterred by internet trolls and make the film as he intended. Tweaking his script and gathering a most impressive line-up of stars, Tarantino has another winner on his hands and one that shows both sides of his cinematic calling card.
In a bloody mash-up of Agatha Christie mysteries and the snowy sci-fi classic The Thing, The Hateful Eight takes place primarily on one set, a haberdashery where strangers gather to wait out a blistering blizzard…but one (or more) of them aren’t who they claim to be. Tarantino has crafted another memorable set of characters from bounty hunters John Ruth (Kurt Russell, Furious 7) and Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, RoboCop) to retired General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern, Nebraska) to newly minted sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, American Ultra). Ruth has chained himself to Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Spectacular Now), a wanted woman that faces the hangman’s noose once they arrive in Red Rock, Wyoming. Also factoring into the mix is aloof gunsman Joe Gage (Michael Madsen, Die Another Day), Bob (Demian Bichir, A Better Life), and Oswaldo (Tim Roth, Selma).
How these people end up in the haberdashery are told through a framing device that divides the film into a half dozen or so sections. Each section arrives via a title card that announces the chapter and gives the audience a clue as to what’s coming up. This being Tarantino, he’s not afraid to go a little out of order so he can keep the mystery hidden a little longer.
For a film taking place in largely one location, it never feels stagey or cagey. Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson (an Oscar winner for Hugo) make the small outpost look massive, the perfect place for a killer to hide out. The performances are typically larger than life, with Russell going full John Wayne on his line readings and Jackson being…well…Jackson. Goggins is an actor I can usually take or leave (mostly leave) but his goofy look and delivery mesh nicely with Madsen’s cool gunslinger and Bichir’s man of few words Mexican. There’s a lot of buzz around Leigh’s performance and with good reason, the actress has several dynamite scenes that you’ll have to wait some time for…but when they arrive they’re the stuff Oscar nominations are made of.
Tarantino and The Weinstein Company are taking a unique approach to its release of The Hateful Eight. Tarantino filmed the movie in “glorious 70MM” and several cities are playing host to a Road Show version of the film, complete with an overture and intermission. If you can find this version, make sure to catch it because it gives you a full movie-going experience, recapturing the way movies were released back in the heyday of moviemaking that Tarantino pines so longingly for. It’s also an opportunity to hear the great Ennio Morricone’s haunting score during the overture. It’s crazy Morricone has never won an Oscar and his work here might finally right that wrong (though he’ll have stiff competition from John Williams with Star Wars: The Force Awakens).
At 187 minutes the movie is a commitment and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get a little snoozy during the first half. It feels as long as it is…but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When it does let loose, it becomes a graphic cornucopia of blood and brain matter and one character ends the film covered head to toe in gore. The wait for this is most certainly worth it, especially when the strings are being pulled by so many talented contributors.