Quentin Tarantino has never been particularly coy with the titles of his movies. In Kill Bill we get the protagonist’s goal from the title, and I walked into Inglourious Basterds expecting to see a few. True to form, Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight, contains eight major characters, all of whom are pretty hateful.
The film opens with some breathtaking 70mm shots of a snowy pass as a stagecoach attempts to outrun an impending snowstorm. The stagecoach is being driven by O.B. Jackson (James Parks), and inside are John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The group plans to seek shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery, on their way to Red Rock. Before reaching Minnie’s they pick up two separate men stranded in the snow: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Sherrif-to-be of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins).
When the five of them arrive at Minnie’s they discover she is not there, but there are others seeking shelter from the storm there as well, including Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern). While Minnie is away, Mexican Bob (Demian Bichir) has been left in charge of the shop.
It is in Minnie’s Haberdashery that most of the film takes place. The first hour and a half of the film (you can do that when you make moves that are almost three hours long) are a slow, pressure cooker. Alliances are made and, almost as quickly, dissolved between the temporary inhabitants of the small lodge.
But, this is a Tarantino movie featuring a roomful of people with guns on their hips, so you can be sure that eventually, bullets will fly. A mystery begins to emerge along the way, but, rest assured, it will be resolved in a calm and rational manner.
Just kidding. People get shot.
When discussing the film’s long flashback, the overly bloody gun battles, and the film’s strong language, I kept wanting to use the phrase “in typical Tarantino fashion,” and that’s when I realized that of all the movies and directors that Tarantino has paid homages to throughout the years, this movie appears to be a tribute to his own work — not quite the homage that The Force Awakens was to the original Star Wars, but close. Fans of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction will not leave disappointed.
Tarantino, “in typical Tarantino fashion,” delves into topics such as racism and post-Civil War grudges, but everybody in the film is so busy being, well, hateful, that it’s tough to get too involved in any single character’s point of view. Each character is given just enough backstory and motivation to allow you to easily identify them (“that’s the hangman, that’s the General”) until, one by one… people change.
Much was made about the film being shot in 70mm, a super detailed and wide format that allows for stunningly high definition images to be captured and later displayed, but the vast majority of the film takes place a single room. There is no arguing that the shots of the stagecoach working its way through the snow aren’t fantastic, but the vista view ends too soon. I suspect the people who invented this highly detailed film format never imagined it would be used to capture every detail of someone’s brains being blown out, but, there you go.
The Hateful Eight is part western, part murder mystery, and a whole lotta’ Quinton Tarantino. If you like his other work you’ll love this, and if you don’t, this isn’t the place to start.