We continue our look at 5 films of 2015 that are worthy of award season, so number 4 on this list should be no surprise. Love him or hate him, Quentin Tarantino is the filmmaker of our generation and has been one of the few directors that continues to put out movies that are highly anticipated. Tarantino is rare in that even his mediocre films are better than most directors best work. So with that, I wanted to talk about number 4 on our list, “The Hateful Eight.”
The Hateful Eight is the latest from the mind of Quentin Tarantino and he continues to show his love for the american western genre that he grew up watching. Just like his previous film, Django Unchained, the film makes use of the beautiful wilderness as its backdrop and showcases the feeling of unease that accompanied the Midwest shortly after the American Civil War. The film reunites the director with Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, and Walton Goggins, while introducing some new blood to the Tarantino alumni. With such a great cast and Tarantino’s track record, how does his latest offering stack up?
For starters, let us focus on the period and the locales of the film. Similar to 2013’s, “Django Unchained”, the film start with wide shots of the wintry wilderness of the Midwest. We see a carriage and the film starts with a cautious exchange of dialogue between two of our “hateful” residents. We’ll get more into that later but for now lets focus on the surroundings of this exchange. We have a carriage in what could easily be a foot of snow, trees surrounding from all angles, and almost no visibility in the distance. Isolation seems to be the theme and it continues to build with each scene that follows. We also learn of the impending blizzard that is right behind the carriage, a blizzard that very much becomes a character of the film in its own right. The cinematography is top notch, with every detail captured. Imagine yourself watching “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” in beautiful 4K; everything is crisp, allowing any color that was used in the costumes and set pieces to be easily visible through the blanket of white from the storm.
Once we reach our temporary destination of Minnie’s Haberdashery, we are no longer covered in white but feel the isolation of being confined to four dark, wooden walls as the storm whistles through the cracks. The fire is roaring in the fireplace, and everyone is sitting calmly amongst themselves but nothing about this feels inviting. The door is nailed shut as the storm continues to rage outside; not a single occupant appears like they want to be there. Everything in the room feels worn and second hand. The bitter cold is still taking its toll on everyone. The uneasiness builds and builds with tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. Just like the storm outside, Minnie’s becomes another character, continuing the isolation that will pick off each of our players one by one.
I spoke about how the elements and the Haberdashery were characters in the film, but let’s talk about the actual characters for a bit. What makes the “Hateful” eight who they are?
John “The Hangman” Ruth – Kurt Russell.
A bounty hunter who enjoys his work, and it is work in his eyes. He got his name by watching every bounty he captured hang after he had delivered them. Ruth is good at what he does and his reputation is proof of that, so it’s no surprise that the sense of paranoia in the film starts with him. He questions everyone, even those he knows or has met before. Ruth is well aware of the cutthroat nature of his profession and will do whatever it takes to ensure he gets paid and the bad guy hangs. Russell does a fantastic job bringing the character to life, and he does so without channeling any of his previous characters as a crutch. His ability to express both the paranoia and confidence in his assessment of people feels genuine throughout the film. During the events of the film, Russell continues to puff his chest in his attempt to assert dominance among the group. Much like McConaughey had with True Detective and Dallas Buyer’s Club, Russell is able to hold his own allowing him to excel at his craft and shine on the screen.
Daisy Domergue – Jennifer Jason Leigh
The Hangman’s bounty, Daisy Domergue, is at the center of this tale of deceit. She shows no remorse nor worries about her current predicament. Each scene, we witness her utter lack of respect towards a certain character that results in the swift discipline of the Hangman. She is covered in bruises and clearly does not take care of herself; appearance is not a priority in her book. She even makes jokes when her fate is mentioned in the film, giving the Hangman all he needs to suspect everyone around him. The Hateful Eight marks the first time that Jennifer Jason Leigh has worked with Tarantino and the pairing is undeniably perfect. She is able to deliver lines and hold her own with the best of them, similar to younger Uma Therman in Pulp Fiction.
Maj. Marquis Warren – Samuel L. Jackson
A former slave who escaped and joined the fight for the north, Maj. Marquis Warren is now a fellow bounty hunter who resides near the town of Red Rock. Warren is the first person to cross paths with Ruth and, after some hesitation, the two work together to survive the storm and protect one another’s bounties. Although slavery has been abolished, Warren is still met with racial backlash from many characters in the film but holds his own, never letting it get the better of him. Jackson is a veteran of the Tarantino universe, marking this as the 6th collaboration between the duo. Jackson receives top billing this time around and rightfully so as he tends to steal the show in most of his scenes.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by fellow alumni Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Walton Goggins. Everyone plays their parts perfectly, making the who-done-it story all the more thrilling. Each character is fleshed out just enough so that you are never quite sure who is telling the truth or who is hiding something more sinister. Like other Tarantino films, the cast is used just enough for them to take the story where it needs to go allowing each person to never overstay their welcome.
As for the story,..
It’s a pretty simple tale. A ruthless criminal is caught and someone might be just around the corner looking to cut them loose. Who that is, you’ll have to watch the film to find out, but Q.T. does a hell of a job keeping everything special without spoiling what’s to come. During my initial viewing, I kept guessing and I’m happy to say I was wrong, allowing myself to enjoy the film without spoiling anything. Some of our fans may have read the leaked script or attended the live stage read of the script last year, but I never sought out these things which led to me thoroughly enjoying the film for what it is.
The pacing starts off strong and fluid, but by the time we begin to enter the third act, the film felt like it began to drag. Every scene in the movie feels natural with the exception of the exchange between two cast members that starts strong and becomes something very over the top, even for Tarantino. I remember during this particular scene thinking, “okay, that’s kinda fucked up” and when it ended, I was just more puzzled and uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable over the subject matter that was discussed, but because it was really just out of nowhere, although the story in the exchange was likely overly exaggerated to incite a response from the other character.
Despite all of this, everything is very much original material from Q.T., which is something he prides himself on. While I agree the film is original, it also echoes much of what made his debut, Reservoir Dogs, so great. The banter between characters is some of his best in a long time and it’s fine with me that he pays respect to such a great film that helped launch his career. During interviews, Tarantino has even gone as far as citing Reservoir Dogs as one of the inspirations for the The Hateful Eight.
Overall, the movie is a fun ride that has substance and style oozing from every frame. If you get a chance to watch the film in a theater that has 70mm “Roadshow” experience, then that is a must! Will the movie finally nab the elusive Best Picture award? Not likely, but The Hateful Eight should prove to be a huge threat to the competition in the following categories:
- Best Director
- Best Screenplay
- Best Cinematography
- Best Actor/Actress
- Best Supporting Actor/Actress.
- Best any sort of design awards (costume, sets, etc.)
The Hateful Eight is currently in theaters.
Be sure to check out the review from our #5 pick – Steve Jobs