The Hateful Eight was an extremely surprising movie for me. Not that I didn’t think it would be good, in fact I was looking forward to this film right from the get-go. But it was a different movie than I expected– far better in a lot of ways also. I had expected an action-driven movie full of gun fights, blood, gore and very little in the way of an interesting story. What I saw, however, was something just short of magical but far above awesome. The movie was full of great dialogues, tension-building scenes, well acted characters and, yes, great action! It is a sort of old-west style ‘who done it’ film. Something right from the beginning of the movie feels off, and it is supposed to, but you have such a great time figuring out WHAT isn’t right and, while you’re on that journey, you are treated to a cast of characters that are all despicable in their own rights. Not a one of them deserved redemption or a happy ending, but you can’t help but pick one or two of them out and root for them anyways! If this film fails at all in the mind of other critics, it is because they will chalk it up to being “too bloody” and, I suspect this is a preconceived idea that they knew they would take a way from the film far before seeing the opening credits. Let there be no doubt that this film is one of Tarantino’s best and each actor, even the lesser known ones, pull in some great performances.
While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner () encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be a sheriff. Hoping to find shelter from a blizzard, the group travels to a stagecoach stopover located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four strangers, the eight travelers soon learn that they may not make it to their destination after all.
First and foremost, before I get into the meat of my review, I would like to talk about other opinions I have already seen cropping up online. Most notably, the idea that Tarantino doesn’t have a clear message for the film and that he doesn’t know what he wants to film to “say” to its audience. At least this is the opinion of sites like The Verge or Time, and I think they are greatly mistaken. They think, incorrectly, that there HAS to be a message to the film, and why not? Every other film has a message, we expect it, so why not this one!? But I think that the idea behind The Hateful Eight, the very thing that makes this film unique and glorious in the first place, is that each and every character are irredeemable monsters in their own right. They are all despicable and the world would be much better of without them. So what happens when Eight (or more) disgusting human beings are forced to shack up together? Craziness! This isn’t telling the heroic tale of “The Hangman” or the redemption story of Damergue and it certainly doesn’t relay the story of Major Marquis Warren as he faces evil, there is no message or happy ending for any of them, they are horrible people who do horrible things to each other and warp those horrible things into something justifiable. That is what makes them so damn compelling as well as likable and easy to hate at the same time.
So..I mean… well.. that’s basically my review of the film!
Earlier this year I stated that Steve Jobs was probably the most well acted movie of the year… and the crazy thing is? This film gives that movie a run for its money! It is extremely dialogue heavy, which was at first a surprise given the fact that I thought this would be a shoot em’ up type of film. But the dialogue that we do get is both harrowing and compelling at the same time. It sort of reminds me of people sitting around a camp fire swapping scary stories… except that the stories are horrifying and are very tension building. One story, in particular, stands out when Major Marquis is telling the story, to this old man at the inn, that describes how his (the old man’s) son had died at the hands of Marquis. He tells him about how his son had come to kill Marquis to collect the five thousand dollar bounty on his head, but Marquis had killed the kid’s companions and forced the kid to walk naked in the cold frigid snow, naked, for miles and miles. He regails the old man, with laughter and a smile, about how his son at first begged for his life and then begged for just a blanket when he knew his life was going to end. There is more too that story but, you will just have to watch it to find out how that ends. But what’s really great about this scene is how Marquis is cackling the whole time– mocking the dad– it was both haunting and impressive at the same time and it drew you’re in like crazy. This movie is full of scenes like that!
And this movie is so well written that, even as you see these men play this incredibly devious and villainous characters, they stay likable! You are sad when and if any of them die and you root for them to “win” even though winning might lead to the death of other likable characters. They all deserve a terrible death, but you don’t want them to die at the same time. There aren’t many movies that are able can do that. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a movie pull that off with this many characters. One, maybe to characters can be both truly evil and extremely likable at the same time. Take Tom Hiddelston’s Loki or Heath Ledger’s joker, but The Hateful Eight is able to make you like a room full of evil ass dudes all with extremely different personalities. I’m not sure how much of it has to do with Tarantino’s masterful direction or just the actors’ ability– but this felt like a truly unique cinematic experience.
If I had to throw anything out there as a negative… it would be the “who done it” part of the film. I LOVED IT, but it also ends by the third act. You spend all this time thinking that something is off– and try to put the pieces together, but then the riddle is solved and then that sort of dampens the fun a bit. I would have liked to see that go through most of the film, but oh well that’s just one small negative in a sea of overwhelming positives for me. This is one of Tarantino’s best films to date and definitely deserved rewatching multiple times!