The Hateful Eight review: An epic game of trust, suspicion, retro flair
Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight, is a bloody Western epic complete with beautiful winter landscapes, fantastic production design, and rich characters. His third consecutive period piece, it is in many ways his grandest and most lavish yet in style and scope.
Few directors are able to tap into mankind’s tragic love affair with revenge like Tarantino, and The Hateful Eight is no exception when it comes to characters getting their “comeuppance”.
But is it justice or just revenge? Well, the characters you’ll meet along the way in this film have some rather strong and varied opinions on that.
The film cleverly sets its tone in the opening shot. We see the tortured figure of Christ hangs on a weathered, snow-covered cross along the side of a country road. A six-horse stagecoach quickly approaches it and indifferently passes by, on with its business.
In seconds, you know everything you need: Suffering lies ahead. Since it’s Tarantino, we already know this, but like so much else in the film, there’s a greater density to Tarantino’s work.
The stage coach carries two passengers: a bounty hunter named John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They’re on their way to the town of Red Rock, where Daisy is to be hanged for her crimes (in accordance of the law and John Ruth’s personal principles). But first, a “simple” overnight stay at a mountain top inn called Minnie’s Haberdashery.
Along the way, The Hangman and Daisy meet a pair of travelers, including another bounty hunter with a preference for dead bounties named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the new Sheriff of Red Rock. A line-dance of trust and suspicion commences in traditional Tarantino fashion.
The opening chapter of The Hateful Eight may sound rather short ‘n simple, but it’s not. Tarantino takes his time getting these characters out of the snow and into the story. The interplay that builds between them is fantastic, and each character introduced brings a new and unique flavor of intrigue to the tale.
On the surface, The Hateful Eight is a Western, but what makes this movie so much more than just a standard genre film is his attention to detail in character and scene work. It also helps that he works with great actors, and has a knack for getting the best performances out of them.
Jennifer Jason Leigh stands out here. She has a career most actresses would kill for, but many audiences may not be familiar with. She has a wall full of awards and nominations, and already she is justifiably winning praise for her turn here. Leigh embodies Daisy with sharp humor and unapologetic vulgarity.
Once the stagecoach arrives at Minnie’s, the rest of Tarantino’s complete band of conscience-crutched characters are introduced and the main event begins. Things are not how they should be at Minnie’s and the trust/suspicion dance starts all over again, complete with shifting alliances and disturbing revelations.
I could spend a lot of time delving into each of the nuanced characters you will meet at Minnie’s- they are rich enough to each deserve analysis – but much of the fun is in just figuring out who they are and what they want. Tarantino does a great job in giving you just as much as you need to know. With a character driven story like this, everyone needs to be on their A-game when it comes to their performances. There are no weak links in this cast.
The Hateful Eight review conclusion
It’s refreshing that a movie like this could get made in today’s instant-gratification-spell-it-out-for-me film market. It’s a long film, and there are two cuts – one is 167 minutes, the other is 187 minutes. Yet, not one major metropolitan city is destroyed during the course of the film. It takes it’s own sweet time setting the stage for its characters, and it’s the first intermission I’ve seen at a multiplex since I originally saw Titanic back in ’97. But Tarantino earns his indulgences.
From Ennio Morricone’s ominous Overture to the vintage-style end credits, the film keeps you engaged throughout… and it’s a bloody fun climb to get there. Tarantino is a filmmaker who’s proven himself as a storyteller and has been given enormous freedom in crafting a rich story for the audience. Few mainstream filmmakers reach the level of artist freedom afforded to him – Nolan, Cameron, Spielberg, and only a few others enjoy that unrestricted freedom. And I’m glad for it.
The Hateful Eight is rated R with a running time of 167 minutes (General Version) and 187 minutes (Roadshow Version).