For over the past twenty years, Quentin Tarantino has released seven films that each feel like timeless pieces of art whenever they come out. From the daring, genre-bending seductress that is Pulp Fiction to even 2012’s (deeply flawed) ode to the spaghetti Western in Django Unchained. However, this year Tarantino has come back to the cinemas with The Hateful Eight, a 3 hour long Western epic, that combines some of the best aspects of his earlier films, with the purely unadulterated anger behind his last few projects. For the first time ever though, The Hateful Eight does not merely feel like a glimpse inside Tarantino’s mind, but a full-on, 3 hour paid tour that at times can be just as fun, terrifying, and oddly satisfying as you might imagine.
I will come right out and say that The Hateful Eight is not Tarantino’s best film yet though, and like many of his projects, it is likely to divide his fans. Set during the the frozen tundra of an 1800s Wyoming, The Hateful Eight follows the story of a bounty hunter who’s forced to stay with his prisoner in a building inhabited by other, mysterious characters. These include John Ruth “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason-Leigh), Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson).
What follows is a tense bloodbath that Tarantino fans have come to expect from his films, with a first half reminiscent of the self-contained story in Reservoir Dogs, and second that feels more like the mansion shootout in Django Unchained than some moviegoers will probably like. However, for a film that’s over three hours long, it is one of Tarantino’s most well-paced outings yet that moves by faster than some of his other, shorter projects. A lot of this has to do with how the critically-acclaimed writer and director chose to structure its story, with no real bullets beginning to fly until about 1/3 of the way through, and even with a musical overture and intermission, there’s not a minute that feels wasted throughout. It is at times, his most self-indulgent and reserved project yet. The earnest, dark score from the legendary Ennio Moriconne only adds to the film’s old-fashioned roots as well, and might just be the best score of 2015.
As you can probably imagine, there isn’t a single weak link in all of Tarantino’s cast, and seeing actors like Demian Bichir and Michael Madsen walking around dressed in period clothes, spouting monologues that only Tarantino could write is one of the most entertaining things you’ll see all year, that works as a healthy reminder to why Tarantino’s films are becoming more and more like “event” projects every time they come around. Kurt Russell especially seems like he’s having a ball of a time throughout the film, and while his John Ruth can be frustrating at times, it was nice to see the veteran actor finally being able to sink his teeth into a role again.
Samuel L.Jackson has worked with Tarantino so many times, that it’s hard to point out why it hasn’t begun to feel stale or tired at this point. However, Major Marquis Warren is not only one of Tarantino’s best characters yet, but also one of Jackson’s and some of his speeches are so good, that they sit right underneath the “Ezekiel 25:17” monologue from Pulp Fiction, although they never quite hit the same long-lasting, quotable peak of the latter piece. Seeing him strut around Minnie’s Haberdashery, pointing his twin pistols at anyone that moves is so invigorating, and engrossing, that I’m angry because of just how effective this old Tarantino trick still is.
However, out of a cast of A-list actors, the two standouts are Jennifer Jason-Leigh’s Daisy Domergue, and Walton Goggins’ Chris Mannix. Going into the film, I had expected to be blown away by Daisy, after the role was apparently one of the most sought after female roles of the past few years, and it did not disappoint. Jason-Leigh is having one hell of a 2015, with both this and Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa. In her other film, she plays a fragile women surprised by affection from another living person, including herself, but in The Hateful Eight she’s canniving, animalistic, and an interesting twist of the Old West outlaw. You should expect some big Oscar talk for Jason-Leigh in the coming months for her work here.
What I was not quite expecting from The Hateful Eight though, was just how strong of a showcase for Walton Goggins it would be. I’ve been a fan of his work ever since I saw his turn as Boyd on FX’s Justified, but in this film, he’s able to be charming, pathetic, and cocky all at the same time. Pretty much an entire act of the film belongs to his and Jason-Leigh’s chemistry, and their energetic acting helps to liven the film up at the exactly perfect time. He most likely won’t fit into the crowded Best Supporting Actor category next year, but he damn well deserves to be.
By far, The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s greatest achievement as a director from a technical standpoint alone. His framing and scope in this film is awe-inspiring, from shots that showcase the frozen wasteland that surrounds our characters, to shots made up of only two men looking at each other, and he uses his 70mm cameras in a way that few other directors would think to. The Hateful Eight is a film that takes place in mostly confined spaces, from a stagecoach that’s constantly on-the-go, to the cozy respite of Minnie’s Habberdashery, but at times, it feels like everything is being performed on a stage in a Broadway play, and the 65mm lenses are merely the lights.
That does not mean The Hateful Eight is flawless though. In fact, its flaws are what separate it from being one of Tarantino’s truly great works. I won’t spoil any of the film’s story, but about 2/3 of the way through the film, when The Hateful Eight is truly firing on all cylinders, Tarantino resorts to a certain reveal and plays with the film’s linear storytelling that not only slows down its momentum, but also throws away the interesting mystery behind some of the characters. The reveal didn’t ruin the film for me, but it did take it down more than a few notches, and kept it from being a perfect film.
All in all, The Hateful Eight is truly the most Tarantino film that the writer/director has created so far. Juvenile, bloody, fun, dark, tense, and entertaining in a way that only Quentin Tarantino can provide, The Hateful Eight is the filmmaker’s darkest and angriest film to date, with a dangerous taste for vengeance. So much so that about halfway through, I felt like Quentin had written The Hateful Eight as a response to a number of his criticisms over the past few years, in a manner of that only he could truly provide – with a middle finger and a bucket of popcorn.
The Hateful Eight will hit limited theatres on December 25th, before expanding on January 8th, 2016.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.
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