The filmmaking master Quentin Tarantino rides into to the west once again, this time with his eighth studio film aptly named The Hateful Eight. It appears that Tarantino has developed an affinity for the western genre in recent years, with his last theatrical release Django Unchained winning the Academy Award for best original screenplay.
While The Hateful Eight is set against the beautifully brutal and wintery backdrop of the wicked wild west, the movie cannot be purely defined as a traditional western. The Hollywood system seems to be all about transcending the conventional genres these days. This is something that Tarantino always seems to excel at. On the surface it is crystal clear that Tarantino is paying homage to the great "spaghetti westerns" of old. However in truth, rather than The Hateful Eight being a slick remake of the Magnificent Seven, it is actually more of a tribute to Tarantino's origins.
The filmmaker's latest blockbuster is much closer to a Reservoir Dogs set in the wild west. The vast majority of the film takes place in one room and is even more brutal than its predecessor. It also has to be said that the film is perhaps even more suspenseful. What's even more unique about the movie is that the bulk of its narrative drive is provided from scenes that occur in that one room. This is quite an accomplishment and the credit has to go to Tarantino for his stellar storytelling and screenplay.
This is also helped along by the masterful performances of Kurt Russell and especially Samuel L. Jackson, who is no stranger to a Tarantino film. This is Jackson's seventh film with Tarantino, and the first time he takes top billing on the opening title credits, which is extremely well deserved.
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight - Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson
The Hateful Eight follows the story of John Ruth, a bounty hunter known by the moniker of "The Hangman". This is a reputation that is well known in the wild west. Every one of John Ruth's previous bounties has always made it to the hangman, alive. It is a kind of justice that John Ruth welcomes, and he also likes to watch the justice carried out.
On this particular occasion he is bringing in a prisoner by the name of Daisy Domergue. She is vile and sinister in everyway, which is played to perfection by Jennifer Jason Leigh. At no time as an audience member will you feel for her plight, as her wickedness seeps ever more closely to the surface as each minute goes by. Kurt Russell as John Ruth is a revelation in the role. The resurgence of the actor is highly unexpected, but it is a most welcome return to form.
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight - Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh
Upon their journey aboard a stage coach to Red Rock prison, they encounter a somewhat familiar face in the form of Major Marquis Warren played by the fantastic Samuel L. Jackson. The civil war veteran also happens to be a bounty hunter, stranded in the snow with three corpses that he hopes to return to Red Rock. There he aims to collect his bounty of just under ten thousand dollars. John Ruth is highly suspicious, however he is not at all secretive about the fact the Daisy Domergue's bounty is just as much as Major Warren's three marks combined.
After taking the necessary precautions Ruth agrees to take Warren to Red Rock, under the condition that Daisy's bounty is all his. Warren agrees and they journey at rapid pace to avoid the incoming blizzard. Under the advice of their stage coach driver, they realise that will not beat the snow storm to Red Rock. Major Marquis Warren recommends an intermediary location not too far away, which is known as Minnie's Haberdashery. John Ruth reluctantly agrees and they make their way once again. Their journey is evidently brought to a halt once again with the introduction of Chris Mannix played by the unique Walton Goggins. He just so happens to be another reveller stranded in the snow, which brings John Ruth's suspicious nature to fever pitch. On further query the bounty hunters discover that Chris Mannix is the newly appointed sheriff of Red Rock, who has conveniently not been issued his badge just yet.
This is information that John Ruth finds overly convenient. To make matters more interesting, the sheriff of Red Rock is responsible for providing the financial compensation they seek for their subsequent bounties. Mannix's southern confederate ideals also make the interaction between the sheriff and Major Marquis Warren incredibly interesting. They agree to travel together after some humourous negotiations and they press on to Minnie's Haberdashery with urgency.
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight - Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson
Upon their arrival to Minnie's Haberdashery they are introduced to a series of gentlemen taking refuge from the blizzard. The circumstances are highly conspicuous, especially considering the notable absence of Minnie herself. Bob "The Mexican" who is looking after the Haberdashery while Minnie is gone, as well as Red Rock's new Hangman Oswaldo Mobray, Confederate General Sandy Smithers and cow puncher Joe Gage all happen to be there at the same time.
The roles played respectively by Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern and Michael Madsen provide an eclectic ensemble that is brilliant to watch. Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray steals most of the scenes he is in. The only exception is when he happens to share the screen with Samuel L. Jackson's character Major Warren. With both being veterans of the Tarantino style, they do their utmost to deliver Quentin's slick dialogue with an eloquence and efficiency that is unmatched in the film.
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight - Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth
From here the plot really gets interesting, with the bounty hunters agreeing that someone is possibly in cahoots with the dangerous Daisy Domergue. The plot develops into an intellectual chess game, with each party attempting to outwit the other. There are times in the film when certain chapters could even be compared to an Agatha Christie murder mystery or perhaps even a game of Cluedo. Make sure to keep your eyes open for special cameos, including Channing Tatum who makes a most memorable appearance.
The film does suffer from some issues which slow the story's narrative drive. This is especially evident at the beginning of the film, from the moment the opening title credits begin to roll. In short, the movie takes a while to build its momentum, which will definitely be noticed by the current generation of impatient film watchers. However, rather than the culprit being issues on the page, it is more of a reflection of execution that didn't quite hit its mark. This is something that Tarantino may have tried to rectify in the past with a catchy opening soundtrack that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
However, on this occasion Tarantino had the privilege of working with the legendary composer Ennio Morricone. The composer arguably defined the western genre along with Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone, with some of his most famous scores being The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars More. The temptation for Tarantino to use a theatrical score composed entirely by Morricone would have been insatiable. While the vast majority of The Hateful Eight score is composed by Morricone, it is uncharted territory for Tarantino, who has always carefully selected his soundtracks. These soundtracks in the past have arguably defined the filmmaker's style, with previously selected songs and music being so potent that they are often characters on their own.
Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight - Samuel L. Jackson
While the middle and end sections of Morricone's score are incredibly suspenseful, the opening musical sequences leave a lot to be desired. The Morricone composition also lacks the gravitas of the scores that he is most renowned for. Perhaps it is a situation where it is extremely difficult to catch lightning in a bottle more than once. Then again, it is in fact the first theatrical score for a western that Ennio Morricone has composed in 40 years, which has definitely played a factor. While it is not his strongest theatrical composition, don't be surprised to see Ennio Morricone winning the Academy Award for best original score for the Hateful Eight. It is safe to say that an Oscar nomination will be inevitable.
There has been a major marketing push for audiences to see the movie in the famed 70mm film format. This is something that Quentin Tarantino has been championing for a long time, with both he and Christopher Nolan leading the charge among other directors. For those who are unaware, the majority of movies throughout history have been shot and projected in cinemas on 35mm film reels. Prior to the digital camera and digital projector revolution, movies were still being shown in cinemas via 35mm film. However, there have been some unique circumstances throughout history where filmmakers have chosen to shoot their movies on the larger 70mm film format to provide a wider and more theatrical presentation for their films.
The 70mm format also requires specialised cameras known as Ultra Panavision 70, which is coincidently the same camera that the Hateful Eight was filmed on. Other movies to have been shot in this particular format have included legendary films including Ben-Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Shooting with these cameras also requires specialised 70mm anamorphic lenses which can be rare to find. So rare in fact, that The Hateful Eight was actually shot on the same lenses that were used to film the multiple Academy Award winning movie Ben-Hur. In short, The Hateful Eight will have wider and more detailed images than most movies you see in the cinema. So wide in fact, that the aspect ratio equates to 2.76:1. This is much wider than your wide screen television at home, which will allow audiences to see much more detail and scenery in the frame. Therefore, it is an experience that you must witness at the cinema.
Unfortunately the 70mm edition of The Hateful Eight will only have a limited release at cinemas including Event Cinemas on George Street in Sydney, the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne, the Randwick Ritz Cinema, as well as The Astor Theatre in St. Kilda, the Sun Theatre in Yarraville and the Village Rivoli in Hawthorn. This is primarily due to the limited availability of 70mm film projectors.
The 70mm edition of the Hateful Eight can be seen from Thursday January 15th up until Wednesday January 20th, just prior to the movies wide release on Thursday January 21st. The presentation will be highly unique, replicating the Roadshows of old where films had a musical overture prior to the start of the movie, as well as an intermission and a souvenir program. The Hateful Eight Roadshow will follow in the footsteps of legendary movies such as Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and The Ten Commandments.
Overall, The Hateful Eight is incredibly enjoyable to watch, albeit after a slow build up. Credit has to go to Quentin Tarantino for executing such a brilliant and compelling narrative. The dialogue is also masterfully entertaining, which is no surprise for a Tarantino movie. However, the film is not for the faint of heart. The Hateful Eight's violence can be incredibly graphic at times, which may make queasy members of the audience uncomfortable. On the other hand, the majority of viewers will find the violent sequences are necessary to provide the incredibly amusing and compelling punch lines.
Tarantino has always been able to deliver these unique higher concepts through this form, and on this occasion it is not different. Audiences should also be aware that the film takes political correctness very lightly, which is definitely a reflection of the times in an era that is post civil war, where multiculturalism and feminism were foreign concepts. The 70mm presentation of the film is incredible to watch, although most audiences won't be particularly bothered if they see it in the regular 35mm digital format. In all honesty the difference is only marginal. However, The Hateful Eight is definitely a cinematic experience that needs to be seen in a movie theatre. There is no doubt that audiences of every kind will experience something beneficial when watching this Tarantino spectacle.