The Hateful Eight (2015)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
The ever-consistent auteur Quentin Tarantino is in classic form directing his newest, “The Hateful Eight.” Set in the same universe as his last, “Django Unchained,” this mysterious, suspenseful western shows that Tarantino still knows what he’s doing.
When bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth catches you, you hang. So when Ruth (Kurt Russell) gets his hands on the outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), he has every intention of taking her to Red Rock and watching the hangman kill her to death. On his way, he picks up two strangers, former Civil War major (on the Union side) Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Red Rock’s new, not-yet-appointed sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins). But a Wyoming blizzard rides up fast, and the crew (along with driver O.B., played by James Parks) is forced to seek shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery until it blows over. But they’re not alone. Four others have also sought shelter from the storm: former Confederate general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), Red Rock’s hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and the man Minnie appointed to run the haberdashery while she was away, Señor Bob (Demian Bichir). But, like any great Tarantino film, not everyone is who they say they are, and Minnie’s Haberdashery gets cozy in the company of these unreliable strangers.
Tarantino tells his Golden Globe-nominated story in chapter format, without always sticking to a linear storytelling style. He changed up his form a little bit, but the meat of the script is classic Tarantino. His original script is up there with the best of the year. By the time the nearly three-hour film was over, I wanted more. I never checked the time hoping for a quicker exit. I was hooked. Only once did I feel a plot twist felt too convenient, too easy for Tarantino. But otherwise, the unpredictable mystery made “The Hateful Eight” one of the year’s most constantly compelling films. Add in more than a dash of trademark Tarantino humor and “The Hateful Eight” is an entertaining way to forget your end-of-the-year stresses.
Casting director Victoria Thomas (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Edward Scissorhands”) has her work cut out for her, able to choose frequent Tarantino collaborators like Jackson, Roth, and Madsen to come aboard. But it’s the Tarantino newbies that make the biggest splash. Kurt Russell, speaking with a growl that would make the Duke himself jealous, was born to read a Tarantino script. He makes “The Hangman” a classic western character, complete with a thick fur coat and enviable mustache. It’s his best character in years. Goggins is the film’s funniest character, a squirrelly future-sheriff that you know you love but aren’t sure if you believe. Golden Globe-nominated Jennifer Jason Leigh is an evil delight as the unforgettably unique, dangerously vicious Domergue. Tim Roth (in his fourth Tarantino movie) has a charming Christoph Waltz swagger—he’s delightful. And Bruce Dern (in his second) is subtle and nuanced as the crotchety and racist former general. His decades of experience shine through in the way he handles his role with subtlety and grace. Every character is well-written, with a backstory they reveal slowly and with intention (whether it’s true or not, time will begin to tell). And under the direction of Tarantino (who deserves end-of-the-year directing honors, as well as screenwriting awards), the actors are always in the write place. Minnie’s Haberdashery is more like the set of a well-staged theatrical production. Every character is strategically placed at all times to show you what you need to see.
When you watch “The Hateful Eight,” you can see filmmaking at its finest. And when you hear the score, from Ennio Morricone (“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”), you hear the best musical accompaniment of 2015. His score booms in the background, not to heighten suspense (this story doesn’t need help) but to bridge the gap between scenes. It stands alone well, even if it doesn’t aid the story. Despite mixed opinions, especially from critics, I found “The Hateful Eight” to be one of the year’s best films. “The Hateful Eight” ended up being the last film I saw in 2015, and I have no regrets ending my cinematic year with this clever and original Western.