*Note, this is a review from the Special Roadshow Engagement presented in 70mm.
For most of the past three hours, I sat in Minnie’s Haberdashery amongst eight depraved, untrustworthy, and vile human beings. It was a long, cold and arduous night full of twists, bloodshed, and revelations as Quentin Tarantino pulls the veil from our eyes showing the brutalities of human nature. The result? A chilling, marathon of a movie that stands tall amongst Tarantino’s finest works, but it may be his most divisive movie yet. I am talking about none other than The Hateful Eight.
To get the general essence of The Hateful Eight, the easiest comparison would be to take the western-style of Django Unchained and the one room slow-build of Reservoir Dogs, have them make a baby, and then throw in some westerns in the vain of Howard Hawks, and you are only beginning to scratch the surface. On a dark, blizzardy night, eight people find themselves stuck in what is essentially a pitstop for stagecoach drivers heading through the mountains of Wyoming. What sets the whole night going, though, is the transportation of one Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to be hung by bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell channeling John Wayne) as they pick up stragglers Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). On arrival at the haberdashery, they meet Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), prompting them to wait out the blizzard.
If there’s ever one thing to worry about in a Tarantino movie, it certainly is not the acting. He is one of the few directors who can direct some of the best performances from actors and actresses alike. Each character in The Hateful Eight is perfectly cast, with each getting their big moment by the end of the film, though some get more screen-time than others.
Since about 90% of the movie takes place within the tight confines of the haberdashery, much of what occurs is dialogue—which is exactly what will deter most people from this three-hour epic. Patience is the key—much like in Reservoir Dogs, which is about half as long as The Hateful Eight—as Tarantino lights a fuse the minute the movie starts. As fans of Tarantino know, he knows exactly what he is doing the entire time, but the minute you start doubting him is the minute you challenge him on his craft. Not only is the entire film a slow-burn for some grand conclusion, but it is layered throughout with mini bombs and fires that the audience is constantly aware of–anybody could crack at any minute.
These moments are—in large part—due to Tarantino’s ability to create magnanimous heroes and vicious villain each with motivations that supersede trivial revenge or monetary gain. As Tarantino has always done, he gives these motivations out in a natural, believable manner. No deed goes without its reason, and every action has its consequences. .
Seeing it in the 70mm print is an experience in itself–there is an overture and intermission that separates the movie into two parts. The cinematography from Robert Richardson—a Tarantino veteran—is gorgeous and cold. From picturesque, isolated mountains thick with snow to the warm—yet still chilly—interior of Minnie’s Haberdashery, it is a breathtaking feat. But fans of westerns will find great joy out of hearing the score from none other than Ennio Morricone, the legendary composer of many great westerns. It is a decidedly dark score, but hearing it on its own during the overture really gets you into the right mindset for the film
Tarantino has done it again. The Hateful Eight is an epic of a bygone era that digs into the depravity of human nature as told by eight untrustworthy renegades, rebels, bandits, and maybe even a hero. While it will have uncertain fans and newcomers struggling to reach the end, fans of Tarantino—and those who buy into it—will relish in Tarantino working at the top of his game giving us a new cast of memorable, deplorable characters that are all marvelously acted. Is this Tarantino’s magnum opus? Doubtfully; but with a promised two final movies, fans can sit back and watch where the master filmmaker will go next.