Posted by: ckckred | January 3, 2016

The Hateful Eight

KurtRussellSamuelLJacksonHatefulEight.jpg

Editor’s Note: The version reviewed is the special 70 mm roadshow cut.

Sitting in the theater waiting for Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight, to start, I happened to see a short teaser for Guns N’ Roses’ upcoming reunion tour. After watching the clip, I came to the realization that Tarantino shares much in common with Guns frontman Axl Rose. Both enjoyed success early in their careers (Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Rose with Appetite for Destruction), were met with widespread acclaim and fandom across the globe, and have personalities that earned them a streak of notoriety.

But Tarantino and Rose differ in how they handled their instant celebrity. While Rose alienated his bandmates and friends and turned Guns N’ Roses into a parody of itself, Tarantino bolstered himself with a series of original pictures that vary in genre and style. So even though The Hateful Eight on the surface may appear self-indulgent, with the extravagant promotion of its 70 mm projection, notorious production issues, and high-profile staff (which includes a score from legendary composer Ennio Morricone), Chinese Democracy it is not. In fact, The Hateful Eight is arguably the most exciting and rigorous movie Tarantino has done since his magnum opus Pulp Fiction.

As with Tarantino’s previous picture, Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight is a western, though set in 1870s Wyoming instead of the pre-Civil War era south. Bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) just caught notorious murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and is taking her to Red Rock to be hanged, accompanied by ex-slave-turned-major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and incoming Red Rock sheriff and former Confederate Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins).

After getting caught in a blizzard, the group arrives at a cabin known as Minnie’s Haberdashery and meets its gruff Mexican caretaker Bob (Demian Bichir), cunning hangman Oswaldo (Tim Roth), Southern General Smithers (Bruce Dern), and stern cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen). After encountering all of these peculiar characters, John suspects that one of these men is in cahoots with Daisy and is determined to protect his bounty no matter the cost.

With its claustrophobic setting and eccentric ensemble, The Hateful Eight recalls the starkness of Tarantino’s raw debut Reservoir Dogs. However, The Hateful Eight doesn’t feel redundant and makes much use of its western scenery to expand upon Dogs’ setting. The snowy plains of Wyoming— actually shot in the Colorado Rockies—adds extra tension to the limited backdrop.

Like Django Unchained, racism is a central theme of The Hateful Eight. Its predecessor dealt with this by satirizing the Blaxploitation genre, rewriting history through its eponymous protagonist’s revenge against slave owners. In The Hateful Eight, Warren fills Django’s shoes but finds himself at odds with the white men surrounding him. Whereas Django lived out his ultimate revenge fantasy, Warren tolerates oppression during the post-Civil War era, coping with systemic racism and N-bombs. Jackson has rarely been in as fine form, imbuing Warren with both the spunk and bitterness of Pulp Fiction’s Jules.

The rest of the cast is similarly magnificent, in particular Walton Goggins. Goggins has long shined on TV in roles in Justified and The Shield and is in top-notch form as Mannix. He portrays the boisterous and seemingly racist sheriff with nuance, revealing a different side of the character in the second half of the picture. Goggins’ interactions with Jackson make up many of The Hateful Eight’s best scenes.

However, the selling point of The Hateful Eight is undeniably its cinematography. Filmed in 65 mm film using the same lens that captured the mighty chariot sequence in Ben Hur, The Hateful Eight is a gorgeous theatrical experience. Robert Richardson’s photography beautifully captured Wyoming’s rugged landscape in a way digital cinematography can’t. Every detail from the snowflakes to Russell’s muttonchops is elegantly recorded. The crispness of the images made me feel as if I was watching a modern day Sergio Leone movie, further emphasized by longtime Leone collaborator Morricone’s gigantic, Stravinsky-esque score.

Tarantino’s decision to project The Hateful Eight in 70 mm may seem a haughty one, but it displays the picture magnificently. With the screening’s overture and intermission accompanied by the magnificent array of colors 70 mm provides, I felt as if I was transported back fifty years, when massive epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hur were released across the U.S. in select theater roadshows. I cannot imagine digital projection doing The Hateful Eight justice. One can only hope The Hateful Eight will encourage more directors to harness the power of film.

Tarantino has long proven himself to be a giant of modern cinema, and The Hateful Eight stands to be a monument to his legacy. Recently, Tarantino stated that he only wants to make two more pictures before he retires. Before that sad day befalls us, let us hope that those movies will be as good as this one.

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Responses

  1. Great write-up, man! I had issues with it. Overlength, underused supporting actors, and the bizarre decision to shoot in 70mm but remain in an enclosed room. That aside, it was a total blast and I still had lots of fun with it. QT still has the goods. No mistake about that!

    • Thanks Mark. I actually didn’t find The Hateful Eight overlong at all. I loved Django but that went on about 20 minutes too long; for me, Hateful ended perfectly. Did you see this in 70 mm projection? It included an intermission that helped pace the picture.

      • I didn’t see the intermission version. So admittedly I may have viewed things slightly differently as a result. I agree that Django was overlong too and even though I felt the same with Hateful, it didn’t feel as disjointed as Django towards the end. My gripes are small, though, man. I still really liked it.

      • The 70 mm screening really made it feel like something else, an amazing theatrical experience. Django didn’t know how to end, but Hateful came to a stunning conclusion.

  2. Wow, very high praise indeed. I’ve actually been avoiding reviews of this until now as I wanted to go in knowing as little as possible, but I trusted you to not give anything key away! I’m excited to see it…think it’s out here next Friday.

    • See it immediately man! Try catching it in 70 mm, it looks absolutely amazing. The Hateful Eight was by a large margin the most enjoyable and enriching picture I’ve watched all year.

      • Oh cool! I doubt I’ll get to a proper 70mm screening but I’ll see what’s available in London.

      • Here in the US it’s being distributed in 70 mm in select cities, but I don’t know about its international theatrical release. But it’s 100% worth the effort to watch it in 70 mm, I can’t imagine the digital projection being quite as good.

  3. It’s good Tarantino. Not great, but good enough that it’s absolutely well worth the watch. Nice review.

    • Thanks Dan. This to me stood out as Tarantino at the peak of his power. I enjoyed just about everything about The Hateful Eight and can’t wait to see it again.

  4. Excellent review, I can’t wait to see this as everyone is talking about it.

    • Thanks man. Watch this as quickly as you can, it’s an incredible picture.

      • I’m definitely taking your advice.

  5. Hey mate, just stumbled on your blog. Great write-up mate, I’m intruiged about this 70mm business. I’m in Australia so I have no idea if that version will screen anywhere near me. Morricone being involved also has me excited. Can’t wait till next Thursday!

    • Thanks man. I don’t know if this is being screened in 70 mm internationally but the presentation looks absolutely stunning. It features an overture, intermission, and even a booklet detailing the picture’s production.

      • Wow, really shows how big a fin of cinema Tarantino is. I’ve been reading parts of his interview with Sight & Sound (not wanting to spoil this movie) and his passion and enthusiasm for movies, not to mention his knowledge… it is infectious!

  6. Finally got back here to read your take on the film. I did know you were a really big fan. Obviously we see this film a bit differently but that kinda goes hand-in-hand with QT. His movies come across as naturally divisive although I think it is safe to say the majority really likes his stuff. But as I said in my review, I do still consider him an auteur despite my misgivings.

    • Yeah, I feel Quentin Tarantino is a director who if you don’t fully appreciate his style you can’t really latch onto his movies, though I absolutely adore his work.

      I feel the same way about Lars von Trier. He’s undeniably a filmmaker of greatness but he doesn’t quite connect with me, though I surprisingly very much enjoyed Nymphomaniac.

      • I think the von Trier comparison is a good one. I fall into the same category with him. Appreciate the pure craft behind his filmmaking but have trouble connecting with his movies more often than not.

  7. I absolutely loved it myself. I can imagine how great it must have been in 70mm. Great review!

    • Thanks man. It looked incredible in 70 mm and I can’t imagine any other projection would do it justice.


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