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?
Release Date: December 25, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Almost two years ago, the script for writer/director/cinematic wonder-boy Quentin’s Tarantino’s follow-up to Django Unchained was leaked to the always-thirsty internet, and Tarantino was so pissed off that he considered scrapping the whole thing. Luckily for viewers, he didn’t, because The Hateful Eight is an amazing movie.
The Hateful Eight begins with a bounty hunter named John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell from Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York) transporting a prisoner named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh from eXistenZ and Fast Times at Ridgemont High) through a blizzard in Wyoming to the town of Red Rock via private stagecoach to be hanged. Along the way, they encounter Major Marquis Warren (Pulp Fiction‘s Samuel L. Jackson) stranded on the side of the trail and, after a tense conversation, Ruth agrees to give him a lift. A little further along the road the stagecoach comes across Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins from “Justified”) claiming to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, and Ruth lets him ride along as well. The entire party barely beats a snow storm to an establishment called Minnie’s Haberdashery where they are met by four other people: a Mexican named Bob (Demián Bichir from Machete Kills), who helps run the place; the new hangman of Red Rock, Oswaldo Mobrey (Tim Roth from Reservoir Dogs); Joe Gage (Michael Madsen, also from Reservoir Dogs), a renegade cowboy; and a salty old Confederate soldier named General Sandy Smithers (Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern). With the snow outside swarming, the group is stuck there together for a few days, yet it quickly becomes clear that not all of them are who they claim to be, and some of their motives may not be entirely pure.
It’s easy to understand why Tarantino would be upset about the script to The Hateful Eight being leaked. It’s the type of movie that is best experienced with a fresh outlook and no pre-conceived notions, let alone knowing exactly what is going to happen in advance, and those who read the script ahead of time are only cheating themselves. For example, a quick glance at the credits will tell potential viewers that Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) is in the film, yet knowing what part he plays is a major spoiler. Yes, The Hateful Eight is so carefully constructed and engineered that even the slightest spoiler will derail the train and ruin the mystery. It’s the type of movie that, once you see it, you’ll wish you could see it for the first time again.
Like Quentin Tarantino’s last few movies, The Hateful Eight is tough to pigeonhole into a single genre. On the surface it is, of course, a western. But it’s only a western until the audience gets tired of it being a western, at which point it becomes a whodunit mystery. When the audience gets tired of that, it switches things up again, this time becoming a horrifying episode of “Tales from the Crypt.” It’s a perfect storm of Agatha Christie-meets-Sam Peckinpah between the pages of EC Comics. And, in true Tarantino fashion, it doesn’t apologize in the slightest for any of it. The Hateful Eight is QT making a movie as if he doesn’t care if anyone is going to like it or not. But, of course, everyone is going to like it, because it’s a QT movie.
In many ways, audiences know what they’re getting when they show up for a Quentin Tarantino movie, and they’ll get it in droves with The Hateful Eight. It’s full of those extended scenes of expositional dialogue that, although they seem to go on forever, never feel long or get boring, keeping the viewer hanging on every muttered word and unspoken gesture. There are also a few patented Tarantino flashbacks and re-enactments that play hell with the actual timeline of the story. And, finally, there are buckets and buckets of blood that get spilled, courtesy of the KNB EFX guys. So, The Hateful Eight is more of the same old Tarantino, but in a completely fresh and different way. And it’s brilliant.
As far as actors go, Quentin Tarantino has a stable of regular collaborators who know exactly what he wants from performances and can consistently deliver. With The Hateful Eight, Tarantino turns to his old reliable cohorts Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen, and all of them shine brightly. But, there are certain intangibles to the movie and its ensemble, and the real X-factor of The Hateful Eight is Jennifer Jason Leigh. Leigh puts everything she has into her role, playing the captive Daisy Domergue with equal parts obvious restraint and explosive lunacy, always giving the audience the impression that she knows just a bit more than she’s letting on. It’s a masterful performance. Between Tarantino’s usual suspects, Leigh’s scene-stealing subtlety, and the added tough-guy heroics of Kurt Russell and Bruce Dern, the cast of The Hateful Eight is top-notch.
One of the big selling points for The Hateful Eight is the “roadshow” release of the film which will be exhibited in select cities on 70mm film. Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson (who, in addition to shooting most of QT’s films, has also worked with the likes of Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese) did, in fact, shoot The Hateful Eight on 70mm (well, 65mm actually, but that’s how 70mm is done), and it looks absolutely stunning in a crystal-clear grindhouse picture kind of way. The external shots are breathtaking; even with the images obscured by snow flurries, the landscape is beautiful, just as it should be in a western. Once the film gets into its single-room groove, however, the big screen isn’t as utilized as much it should be. The internal shots have their share of pore-magnifying close-ups (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Bruce Dern’s forehead stretched across an Imax-sized screen), but for the most part, the photography for the last 3/4 of the film is small-scale and self-contained. There are rumors that the Roadshow version of The Hateful Eight is a different cut of the movie than the regular release, although it’s unclear as to how significant the differences will be. The bottom line is, if the Roadshow comes to your city, by all means, see it. If it doesn’t, you’ll still be fine with the regular release version. See The Hateful Eight either way you can get it, but definitely see it in a theater, because it looks way too good for its imagery to be confined to a television screen.
There are a couple of interesting “firsts” about the score to The Hateful Eight. The film is the first by Quentin Tarantino to feature a primarily original score rather than exclusively use music cues lifted from other movies. But, more importantly, The Hateful Eight‘s score was composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone, and it represents the first western that the composer has scored in a good forty years. The music for The Hateful Eight is an absolutely vital part of the movie; from the first strains of the Overture, it is perfectly clear that the film is not only a western, but an Ennio Morricone-scored western. The music is grand and dynamic, both timeless and modern, drifting seamlessly between a typical western score á la The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and a horror movie soundtrack along the lines of The Thing (both of which, incidentally, are movies for which Morricone did the music). Quite simply, Morricone provides the perfect soundtrack to the pseudo-revisionist western visuals that Tarantino creates. The music for The Hateful Eight is not just Morricone’s score, however; because it’s a Tarantino movie, there are fitting pop and country tunes shoehorned in throughout the running time, including songs by The White Stripes, Roy Orbison, and Crystal Gayle. There’s also a folk tune pulled from Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, a haunting version of “Silent Night” performed by Demián Bichir, and, most significantly, a ballad sung by Jennifer Jason Leigh that plays a very important and telling role in the plot. The soundtrack for The Hateful Eight contains something old, something new, something borrowed, and a little of the blues, but it all fits in perfectly and serves the story well.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Quentin Tarantino
- Producer(s): Richard N. GladsteinShannon McIntoshStacey Sher
- Screenwriter(s): Quentin Tarantino
- Cast: Kurt Russell (John “The Hangman” Ruth)Samuel L. Jackson (Major Marquis Warren)Jennifer Jason Leigh (Daisy Domergue) Walton Goggins (Sheriff Chris Mannix)Tim Roth (Oswaldo Mobray)Michael Madsen (Joe Gage)Bruce Dern (General Sandy Smithers)Demian Bichir (Bob)Channing Tatum (Jody)James Parks (O.B. Jackson)
- Editor(s): Fred Raskin
- Cinematographer: Robert Richardson
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Courtney Hoffman
- Casting Director(s): Victoria Thomas
- Music Score: Ennio Morricone
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA