Grandmaster of cinephilia, ultra-violence, and all around cinematic agent provocateur, Quentin Tarantino is one of Hollywood’s most befuddling entities. Regardless of one’s personal view on Tarantino’s oeuvre to date, it is downright damning to argue that Tarantino’s body of work does not, at the very least, pique the general movie-goers’ interest.
Tarantino’s eighth addendum to his bloodlust anthology is The Hateful Eight, presented in resplendent, wide-screen 70-millimeter Panovision. While such a detail may not have been a pertinent morsel of information to most movie goers, one Mr. Tarantino felt it was vital to the film’s release.
The screenplay The Hateful Eight followed a treacherous pathway into becoming a film. Tarantino admitted his first draft of what would eventually become The Hateful Eight had originally been intended as a sequel to his 2013 release, Django Unchained, this time in novel form, called Django in White Hell. Upon deciding the character of Django would not fit in such a story, Tarantino reworked the story into a script that would eventually become the film’s first draft.
Unfortunately, the script for The Hateful Eight leaked shortly after the film’s announcement in January of 2014, and Tarantino threatened to cancel the project altogether. Following a Los Angeles live reading of the leaked script, which featured a number of the finished film’s cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, James Parks, Zoe Bell) in April of 2014, Tarantino announced he was working on two separate drafts with alternate endings.
Fast forward to around the film’s official release, the 70-millimeter “Roadshow” version set to premiere at select theaters (ones that had the proper setup to run 70 mm film) on December 8th, 2015. Sadly, as had become the motif throughout the journey of The Hateful Eight, the film itself was leaked by Hive-CM8, an internet group with a dubious goal of leaking “40 films.”
Despite being torrented on a number platforms and thousands of people, the film finally made its way to its select theater and eventual wide release on Christmas Day with plenty of steam, even with the leak. Tarantino’s preference for shooting in 70 mm cinemascope surely enticed enough cinephiles to see the film in theaters.
The Hateful Eight is a three-hour master class in Tarantino-isms – a film clocking in at a hair over three hours, a magnificent Ennio Morricone score, gratuitous violence, and dark comedic relief that leaves viewers painfully aware of the irony of their own existence.
In short, The Hateful Eight is a post-Civil War character study set in a sequestered haberdashery somewhere amongst the Rockies, following the trials and tribulations surrounding a vicious blizzard, a motley crew of despicable bounty hunters, and conspicuous developments throughout the film.
The Hateful Eight is divided into five chapters, each respective scene being set by Tarantino’s narration. The film opens in the midst of a mountain passage, a stagecoach plowing through the ivory snowdrift. Shortly thereafter, we’re introduced to whom we’re led to believe as the film’s protagonist, one Mr. John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), and his bounty Debbie Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as they reach an impasse on their journey to Red Rock. The aforementioned impasse would be none other than Civil War-hero-turned-bounty hunter, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who also happened to be in close correspondence with President Abraham Lincoln, proved by the letter kept in his pocket, which becomes an integral aspect of the film.
Warren and Ruth make a pact to give Warren and his slew of bounties transport to Red Rock, but after stopping at Minnie’s Haberdashery a little ways outside of the town of Red Rock. Along the ride, some expository dialogue is exchanged between Warren and Ruth, mostly admiring and sympathetic as Ruth badgers Warren to share his Lincoln letter. Jason-Leigh’s Domergue reveals her truly despicable nature while throwing epithets at Warren and eventually spitting on his Lincoln letter, to which Warren promptly punches her out of the stagecoach. In true Tarantino fashion, the characters in The Hateful Eight are not spared in the slightest when it comes to receiving punishment.
The film spends two whole acts before it reaches Minnie’s Haberdashery, the film’s primary setting. Following their dustup in the stagecoach, driven by the trusty O.B. (James Parks), Ruth, Warren, and Domergue come across a former Confederate sympathizer, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is coincidentally headed to Red Rock to (supposedly) become the town’s newest sheriff. Ruth is skeptical of the all too convenient run in of two well-known bounty hunters en route to hanging Domergue, but nonetheless allows Mannix to join. The remaining journey to Minnie’s Haberdashery is poignantly filled with deft dialogue on racial inequality and indignation of failing institutions, under the guise of fresh wounds from the Civil War.
When the blizzard beaten travelers finally arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery, they’re met by the likes of Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) aka “The Little Man,” Bob (Demian Bichir) aka “The Mexican,” Joe Gage aka “The Cow Puncher,” and General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers (Bruce Dern). From the travelers’ arrival at Minnie’s Haberdashery, R-rated hi-jinks ensue, and in the most classic of Tarantino fashion, an all out salvo of verbiage and bloodshed, all within the confines of a singular setting, making The Hateful Eight one of, if not the most violent Tarantino film to date.
Rather than delve into further details surrounding the film’s unique perversions and ultimate outcome, it may be best to give the film one final aerial view. Tarantino manages to combine vengeance, sympathy, pure evil, and cumbersome characters into powerful character study that is at times convoluted, but all in all entertaining. There are powerful performances from Tarantino mainstays (Jackson) and pleasing debuts from first time Tarantino collaborators (Goggins), who manage to survive the film’s pitfalls of elaborate bigotry under the guise of period epithets, and at times unimaginative (albeit amusingly graphic) violence.
The Hateful Eight is certainly one of Tarantino’s best, an exceptional addition to his catalog, but just like the other films in Tarantino’s collection, the film itself is not for the soft minded or the conflict averse. All in all, The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s most stylized and hellacious effort to date, that not only degrades the characters within the film, but will surely test the tolerance of those who go to see it just the same.