Quentin Tarantino’s latest film is a western set in the harsh, cold, unforgiving land of Wyoming after the Civil War. He takes great care to show us all the vast plains of snow, the horses pulling the stage coast struggling through it, the icy, majestic mountains in the distance. It is a vast, cruel and lonely setting. And later the bulk of the action is confined within four drafty walls.
John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is a bounty hunter known as The Hangman. He got that nickname since he always brings his bounties in alive and stays to watch them hang. He’s got Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in custody, with a ten thousand dollar bounty on her head. To put it bluntly, she’s quite a spunky bitch. They’re in a stagecoach driven by O.B. (James Parks) and a blizzard is on their tail. When they happen upon men on the road, first Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) then supposed Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), Ruth grudgingly let’s them ride along.
When they arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery, their shelter for the next few days, the blizzard is on them. Inside, Minnie is missing, Bob the Mexican (Demian Bichir) is running the place instead. Three other men have already settled in: Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) says he’s the hangman of Red Rock, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) claims to be heading home to his mom for Christmas and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) is a withered old Confederate by the fire. Not everyone is who they say they is and there will be a very Tarantino style blood bath by the end.
Over the three hours this movie spans, we get a lot of dialogue (a Tarantino-style forte) and spurts of gruesome action that rev up to the very end. It’s pretty good. However, it does feel like three hours. The Hateful Eight does not feel cool like Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. It does not feel as grand as Inglourious Basterds or as daring as Kill Bill or as crazy bad-ass as Death Proof. It’s colder, more calculated and moves slowly between the spurts of sadistic action.
My favorite character out of our hateful eight is Daisy. She’s the reason they’re all gathered under one rickety roof. Even when she’s chained to and repeatedly abused by John Ruth, she still has a mischievous smile on her face. She is the most beaten down character, on her way to the gallows, but she has a spark that wants us to believe she is not out yet. She even manages to give us a lovely musical number and show off some guitar skills. I was very happy to see that Jennifer Jason Leigh earned the supporting actress nomination.
The Hateful Eight earned only two other Oscar nominations. They are for best cinematography and best original score. I say they are well deserved. The whole film is visually appealing whether we’re seeing snowy mountains or the Haberdashery drafty walls. And the music is just lovely.
The hate in the eight is fueled by so many things. There are old wounds from the Civil War that haven’t healed. Warren and Smithers fought on opposite sides of the same battle. Multiple levels of racism are at work within the Haberdashery. And even some family bonds can bring the hate out until blood and brains are spilled all over the shabby floors.
On a side note, the theater I saw this in was very cold. I’m usually that person who is too warm, wearing t shirts outside when it might snow. Trying to keep myself warm for three hours really helped the drafty shack in a blizzard atmosphere feel extra authentic. I do not recommend seeing this movie in a chilly theater, but it does add a little something.
“When you get to hell, John, tell them Daisy sent you…”
Not Tarantino’s best, but still well worth the watch. Nice review.
Thanks Dan, Tarantino fans will still want to see it.
I was unfortunately really disappointed in this movie. I like all of Tarantino’s movies a lot, so to not like this one provoked a little bit of a film criticism existentialist crisis in me. It seemed to me that it had all of the brutal things about Tarantino’s films and none of the good, even though on a technical level one can’t really fault it for anything. He’s given us moments of hope in his other films, but this one was just too much of Tarantino excess with nothing to balance it out for me.
I understand what you mean, Hunter. It is a very well done movie, but it’s missing something to make it great. I’m hoping Tarantino’s #9 gets back on track.
I’ve watched The Hateful Eight twice in the theater, and I liked it. It has an easy pace, and a lot of character development and the tension is very carefully built, then once the action erupts to the point where people are being killed the film has a sense of urgency it never loses and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen and how everything would play out. And the ending, not a second too soon or too late was very satisfying. I particularly enjoyed the chapter structure, and how we see one chapter out of chronological order.
In the end I see it as in many ways a better version of Reservoir Dogs which I found unsatisfying. I did like Reservoir Dogs, but only enough to be enjoyed one time. It doesn’t really have anything you can gain from multiple viewings. The characters are thin, the tone is inconsistent, and it ends a bit too quickly. This film isn’t one of my favorites (like Django Unchained always will be) but it did show, I think, how Tarantino has evolved as a filmmaker from Reservoir Dogs to The Hateful Eight. I hope he doesn’t retire too soon, there’s no one else like him in the business.
Funny you mention Reservoir Dogs, my brother and I were just comparing it to Hateful Eight the other day! It is a sort of wild west version of RD and really does show how Tarantino has evolved. His movies really are something special and I look forward to his next. Thanks for commenting!