Following the massive success of Django Unchained, writer-director Quentin Tarantino was not about to sit still and he returned to cinemas with a film that would really spin his audience for a loop, and bring out of them a frenzied reaction with his ensemble western thriller The Hateful Eight.
In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.
Quentin Tarantino is lauded for his extensive knowledge and understanding of genre, character and cinematic technique and this knowledge led into what would be his most audacious project to date with The Hateful Eight. Best described as one part western, one part thriller, one part detective mystery and one part horror, this ensemble cinematic experience took audiences for one hell of a shocking ride. The director threw any type of heroism out from this script and instead introduced us to a band of untrustworthy cutthroats, turncoats, schemers, liars and all-around villains and let them ‘have at it’ in the most inhospitable place in the Old West. The resulting action of the film was packed full of the director’s trademark dialogue and plenty of shocking moments that made this film one of the most original pieces of cinema to come along in a long time.
The director assembled an incredible cast for The Hateful Eight and Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson was in demand here as mercurial bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren. Warren is a sly, devilish fox of a man who was definitely the smartest one in this room and set the tempo for what was to come here in The Hateful Eight and Jackson, of course, brought his A-Game here. Sparring with the Major was Walton Goggins as the disreputable Chris Mannix, the supposed new sheriff of Red Rock, whom the good Major did not trust for an instant and their back and forth really tension made things interesting. Both actors set the stage for the level of distrust that was to come in The Hateful Eight and both were quick to grab their guns when need be in typical Tarantino fashion.
Joining Warren and Mannix where bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth and his prisoner, the deplorable Daisy Domergue, and actors Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Lee made the ultimate odd couple here. These two were literally chained together for the entirety of the movie and their antagonistic back and forth between one another led to a definite reaction from the audience. Their relationship is brutal, dark, wicked, fiendish, and incredibly funny. From the get-go, Ruth is determined to hang Daisy and Daisy is determined to make Ruth’s life miserable and unbearable until he does just that. While Russell makes for a terrific brute here, it’s Lee who really steals the show as on the surface she’s the person with the least amount of power, but through the actions of the film she actually becomes the most dangerous out of all of these villains and Lee does a terrific job of being a very bad girl.
Filling out the rest of the collection of Tarantino’s Hateful Eight are Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray, the chipper and sprightly hangman of Red Rock; Michael Madsen as cow-puncher Joe Gage, a reserved and extremely untrustworthy individual; Demián Bichir as Bob, the new barkeep of Minnie’s Haberdashery who seems especially suspect in regards to his duties and Bruce Dern as General Sandy Smithers, a former Confederate General who harbours plenty of ill-feeling to having been on the losing side of the Civil War. All four of these characters add to the dark and foreboding ambience of The Hateful Eight, and when mixed together with Warren, Mannix, Ruth and Domergue, well, you can expect that it’s a powder keg of hate just waiting to go off! And Tarantino certainly revels in it.
The Hateful Eight is a film that plays on its audience and from the very outset you never know where the narrative or these characters are going to go. Of all of Tarantino’s films, it’s the one that keeps you on edge the most as a boiling sense of cabin fever rage and bad intentions set the stage for plenty of horrific moments to play out in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Part of the sinister feeling of The Hateful Eight occurs via the way that Tarantino plays with genre here. The Hateful Eight is filled with the tense moments of the detective story, while the film’s blistering setting and it’s character’s atrocious actions bring about plenty of events that occur in the best moments of the horror genre. Tarantino went for something different here and this originality marks The Hateful Eight as the director’s most visceral film he’s ever created.
Alongside its twisting narrative and genre concoction, The Hateful Eight is also shot with incredible detail thanks to the presence of cinematographer Robert Richardson and the grand vision of Tarantino. The director definitely goes big here and The HatefuL Eight was shot in Ultra Panavision 70mm using a series of specialist Panavision anamorphic lenses with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1, that led to the creation of a very large widescreen image that was last seen in classic films of the 1950s and 1960s including Ben Hur and Khartoum. This wide scope offers up plenty of incredible visuals and the detail and colour in these images are utterly beautiful to behold. These lenses open up the vistas of the wintry Red Rock, Wyoming landscape, while also instilling a deep sense of claustrophobia and tightness within Minnie’s Haberdashery. All of it adds to the ambience of The Hateful Eight and it’s a credit to the vision of Tarantino.
The ‘Tarantino Film’ experience of The Hateful Eight also gets dialled up here and there is a continual stream of shocking moments that take your eyes for a ride as an audience member. There’s gore here in The Hateful Eight, lots of it, and Tarantino delivers it with restless abandon. The director brings the shock factor to the canvas of the big screen and uses it to establish narrative and throw his characters around. This extreme level of gore added to the ill intentions and twisted nature of his characters takes the idea of a ‘Tarantino Film’ to new heights. It’s unpredictable, crazy, confronting and completely brilliant, and audiences walk away from this one with plenty of surprise.
The Hateful Eight is a film that burns its narrative into the minds of its audience and you don’t forget the chaos of this narrative. It’s a maverick film from a maverick director and it offers up audiences something different and reactionary from this cinema genius.