Watching a Tarantino film is a cinematic experience, better yet, a right of movie-passage; an experience that may not be as recognizable or appreciated now by the vast majority, but can surely be pointed out and appreciated by a fine few who can find similarities and influences with some of the last great auteurs and great directors of the past. And yet, like his films, Tarantino intended to present his sly and ultra-violent eighth film in the most roadshow way possible; with an overture, intermission and in 70mm no less. Maybe your wondering, after eight films, has Tarantino out done himself, especially after the exceptional critical and commercial praise of Django Unchained, for which he won an Academy Award in the Original Screenplay category? The answer my friends is, as Samuel L. Jackson so coyly says within the first lines of the film, “Got room for one more?”, cause Tarantino ain’t going anywhere yet!
Tarantino’s newest film, The Hateful Eight is every bit as brilliant, violent, unapologetic and masterful than his last, plus some. Writing in a way that can only Tarantino can write, The Hateful Eight proves that the master scribbler has no intention of letting up, or letting lose of his racial, sexist and down-right offensive subject matter in his older age.
But before we get into all that, lets take a little history lesson…
Back in 2014, the original script for the film leaked online, which gave Tarantino a very easy choice to make, he scrapped the project in pre-production altogether. Opting to make the film a novella instead, a cast was chosen to give a brief reading of the script in LA. The cast, who is almost identical to the final cast seen in the film, with the stark exception of Jennifer Jason Leigh, who replaced Amber Tamblyn in the read as Daisy Domergue, as well as the addition of Demián Bichir and a super secret role of Channing Tatum, The Hateful Eight saw the light after all. Thankfully, after a very successful and publicized read, and with the help of the convincing of good friend Samuel L. Jackson, a frequent collaborator of Tarantino, the writer extraordinaire re-wrote the first draft of the script, created two new alternative endings, and announced his plans to continue with The Hateful Eight as his next film. Alas, here I am today.
The film, which circles mostly among eight main characters, tells the story of a hangman, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is notorious for claiming his earning with subject who are alive, and his seamlessly impossible quest of getting the wanted Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman convicted of murder, to the proper authorities for a hefty bounty. Unknown to him at the time on his way to Red Rocks, Colorado, Ruth’s coach, steered by the steady O.B Jackson (James Parks), encounters one helluva winter storm. Untrusting of anyone and everyone, except O.B, the storm swallows the travelling companions of two men; Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), also a bounty hunter, with some precious cargo of his own, and one Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), an ex Lost-Causer militiaman who is on his way to Red Rocks to claim his new badge as Sherriff and inevitably, issue both Ruth and Warren, their bounty prizes. Too many coincidences yet? Trust me, we are just getting started.
As the two horseless men make their way on Ruth’s coach, Ruth makes an alliance with Major Warren, to both protect their bounties from anyone threatening to take it away from them. While the three men bond in the most bizarre ways, Mannix, an ex Confederate, laughs in the face of Major Warren and his conquests during the Civil War, showing just how stormy the next chapters of this epic story will actually be. As the storm takes a turn for the worst, the coach and all its occupants are forced to seek refuge in Minnie’s (Dana Gourrier) Haberdashery, a cozy and warm little stagecoach lodge the middle of nowhere.
Once settled, paranoia levels are high while we are introduced to the rest of Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Among the new eight are; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) a quiet man who so happens to be at Minnie’s on the quest to see his mother; General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) an old Confederate General who is just being cozy playing chess; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman responsible of the actual hanging of Daisy once at Red Rocks, and my personal favourite Bob The Mexican (Damián Bichir), the only person in charge of running Minnie’s place while she is ‘conveniently’ away with her husband Sweet Dave (Gene Jones). Once the already inhabitant guests greet the new coach full of killers, bounty hunters and coachmen, the stage is set for one of the best whodunnits films in recent memory.
Essentially, this is Tarantino’s first attempt at a mystery film and without question, what a success it is. As expected, Tarantino, arguably, one of the best actor directors working today (and even possibly, of all-time), assembles a stellar cast full of vivid characters who, may not be are favourite group of individuals, ones we aren’t suppose to like much, but end up loving, regardless of their intentions.
Once at the lodge, and honouring Warren’s agreement of allowing each other to protect one another’s bounties (especially since Warren’s combined bounties is equal to Daisy’s alone), Ruth disarms all the men in the cabin, not trusting any of their intentions, or back stories. Without guns, violence and threats, the first half of Tarantino’s latest Western epic becomes a play of violent and hateful words between characters, showing just how much words and the imagination plays with the insides of a man’s head. While in the lodge, master wordplayer Tarantino issues a slew of sub-conflicts between many of the men (most notably between Major Warren and General Smithers, Bob the Mexican and Chris Mannix), specifically based around the Civil War era and the unbelievability of Warren’s power as a bounty hunter, in addition to the fact that Warren claims of possessing a personal hand written letter by the President of the United States himself, one Abraham Lincoln.
Tarantino never strays away from controversy and highly sensitive subject matter, hence, why it came as no surprise that the foundation of many of the conflicts within The Hateful Eight revolve around race, gender and the pursuit of justice. Setting the film during the Civil War Era, it becomes clear early on that the film’s main protagonist, Major Warren, is at the heart of a very white and supremely masculine world. Luckily for him, his personal letter from Lincoln happens to the be biggest saviour in the film for many of Minnie’s guests, most of them in completely denial and doubt that the letter is, in fact, real. Jackson, who’s character Major Warren, is easily the heart and brains of the film, dictating many of the convoluted steps Tarantino takes throughout his film, narrates most of his thoughts and inner deciphers with comedy and just enough entertainment to keep us hooked. Major Warren is both the most empathetic character in the film, as well as being the most heartless. Jackson plays Major Marcus to nothing short of tremendous.
Another stand out performance in the film oozing with male testosterone is that of Leigh’s Daisy. Daisy, the most feared character in the film, thanks to her not-so-subtle confidence of escaping and voided charm towards most of the men in the cabin, exhibits the most masculine of traits when chained, beaten, and bruised by her male counterparts. Leigh brings the fear of Daisy’s words and the disgust of her utter belief of freedom to another level. Leigh’s work, which should put her amongst the most talked about Supporting Performances of the year, should bask in Oscar glory come Academy time.
While the majority of the film is a constant uncovering of secrets, lies and deceits, there is one character who I most point out for their spot-on comedic timing, and that is the one and only Bob the Mexican, played pitch perfectly by the highly underrated actor Demián Bichir. Bichir’s Bob is easily the funniest, light-hearted and convincing character within the four wall’s of Minnie’s place. Bichir, who uses as little dialogue as possible and almost delivers a completely physical and arguably, slap-stick performance, brings much of the life and heart to Tarantino’s film throughout its almost unnoticeable three hour runtime.
Incorporating ultra violence, especially that towards women, race issues and complex questions that are mostly put to the test in the last chapter of the film “Black Man, White Hell”, Tarantino may not really be a voice of gender and race struggles that are happening all over the world, but he surely does present them in a way that assuredly artistic, brutal and most of all, mirrors the many viral images and video we see online everyday of individuals unjustly punished for misunderstood actions. One might even call Tarantino a dispassionate director; one who, in the face of heavy criticism, controversy and surveillance, still delivers films that are easily entertaining, devilish forms of escapism and most of all, unapologetic in the most egotistical way possible.
Sure, Tarantino relishes in blood, the glorification of violence, especially to Daisy (which I am sure will fuel feminist groups everywhere), and the totally unnecessary use of vulgar language and racist slurs, but what good would a Tarantino film be without all of these signature trademarks?
Tarantino is infamously known for his deep adoration of hearing himself speaking to himself in his films. For example, the same way Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) look straight into the camera in the final scenes of Inglorious Basterds, carving his final artwork, “I think this just might be my masterpiece”. In The Hateful Eight, Tarantino inadvertently recognizes himself as a hangman; a man who, is separated from justice and not influenced by strong emotions, making him dispassionate towards many social issues happening today. Tarantino’s only law or guise, is to that of the art and love of cinema. Many may argue this, but to that I say, Whoo Haw…now were talking! Keep’em coming QT, because as a lover of cinema and Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is surely not a fortuitous masterpieces.
Night Film Reviews: 10 Out of 10 Stars.
Has Tarantino outdone himself again or is The Hateful Eight not up to par as his infamous right feature? How is Tarantino’s writing? Dispassionate, wild, rambunctious or just ridiculous? Leave us your thoughts and comments below!