One of them fellas is not what he says he is.
It’s always an event whenever a Quentin Tarantino film is released. Never afraid to splash blood across the screen, Tarantino has given the Gore 4 even more reason to rejoice with his latest film, The Hateful Eight, a modern, old-fashioned Western masterpiece with an outstanding cast and shades of John Carpenter’s The Thing permeating throughout. It may be Tarantino’s best since Pulp Fiction, and with his steady body of Academy Award winning work, that is saying a lot. First, a bit of history.
Back in the 1860s, the North fought their neighbors in the South in a Civil War, a misnomer if there ever was one, over….wait….not U.S. history, but some history on the film. At the end of 2013, Tarantino announced that his next picture would be a western entitled, The Hateful Eight. But soon after, the script was leaked online, and as it was only a first draft with a number of plot points still needing to be worked out, Tarantino, angry that it was leaked at all, by some unscrupulous agent, decided to shelve the film, thinking perhaps he’d just publish it in book form.
Flash forward a few months and Tarantino rounds up a stellar cast, some of who were initially given that first draft script, and performs a staged reading in downtown L.A. to raise money for charity. The event went over so well, and the response was so overwhelmingly positive, that Quentin realizes that this film had to be made. And, thankful, to his fans and movie-lovers everywhere, it has.
Got room for one more?
The film itself takes place during the post-Civil War period in Wyoming, during a particularly cold and snowy winter. Taking refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge offering everything from coffee and beef stew to candy and blankets, are a collection of gun-toting individuals with various goals in mind. Chief among them is a bounty hunter bringing in his quarry for hanging, another bounty hunter, who prefers the ‘dead’ part in ‘dead or alive,’ and a number of other miscreants, one or more of whom may be in cohoots with the prisoner on hand. Knowing Quentin Tarantino, it’s not a spoiler to say that there will be blood. To reveal much more, however, would be a spoiler, and it’s best to let this Agatha Christie-ish whodunit unfurl in all its twists and turns knowing as much as many of the characters in the film do.
Tarantino has once again assembled an incredible cast to tell his tale, many with whom he’s worked with before, and most having being part of the aforementioned L.A. reading. Kurt Russell plays ‘The Hangman’, and he channels his inner John Wayne to bring a rich character to life, one who’s a bastard one minute, and sympathetic the next. Watch him work his magic upon reading a letter purportedly written by President Lincoln. Going up against Russell is Tarantino fav, Samuel L. Jackson, and he’s equally terrific as “The Bounty Hunter,” spouting many of the film’s best, and funniest, lines. (It should be noted that both Russell and Jackson have had a great 2015 at the movies, both appearing in huge blockbusters-Kurt in Furious 7 and Sam in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and both in strong, character-driven dramas-Kurt in another Western, Bone Tomahawk (our review here), and SLJ in Spike Lee’s terrific joint on gun violence in America, Chi-Raq) Joining them here, Russell even more so, as the two spend much of the picture handcuffed to one another, is Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the wisecracking, battered and bruised prisoner, Daisy Domergue. She’s equally effective sitting quietly as she is spouting her foul-mouthed lines. Walton Goggins, best known for his Emmy-winning turn in FX’s Justified, does a great comic turn as “The Sheriff.” These four all deserve Oscar noms for their performances. Add in Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a cast. It is especially rewarding watching Russell and Jackson go toe-to-toe, and one hopes to see them together again down the trail sometime.
You’re starting to see pictures, ain’t you?
As great as all these actors are, what makes them even greater is the rich, full dialogue given to them from their director. Although one could do with less of a certain derogatory term uttered throughout the film, Tarantino manages to make a 3 hour movie move briskly even with long, action-less sections. Whereas Tarantino can get overly enamored of his admittedly superb dialogue at times in previous films (Grindhouse’s Death Proof comes to mind), here, every line uttered deepens his characters, brings meaning to the scheme of things or adds another piece to the puzzle at hand. As mentioned earlier, the fact that the three hours fly by is proof that there’s no filler here, just pure storytelling genius.
There’s something else that we have to bring up, and that’s the film’s stark similarities to the Gore 4’s all-time favorite film, 1982’s The Thing. First off, they both star a sensational Kurt Russell. Secondly, they both take place in an unforgiving harsh frozen environment. Thirdly, both pictures are scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone, who actually incorporates some of his unused music from The Thing in this film. Here, his score is just as foreboding and menacing. Lastly, the theme of distrust and paranoia are central to both films, with Russell uttering a similar line here as he did in the horror classic, when he says not everyone is who he appears to be. For further proof of the influence Carpenter’s The Thing holds over The Hateful Eight, check out this exclusive sit-down with Quentin and the cast, A Date with The Hateful Eight, conducted by Fangoria’s Tony Timpone.
As if all these elements mentioned weren’t enough already to create a cinematic masterpiece, The Hateful Eight has been released in a number of select theaters in glorious 70mm film in a special “Roadshow” presentation, replete with opening overture, an intermission and a printed program to boot. Tarantino used unique Panavision lenses which captured images in an especially widescreen 2:76:1 aspect ratio not seen since the 60’s with films such as Ben-Hur and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. This allows not only broad, sweeping vistas for the outdoor scenes, but makes for more interesting indoor scenes as well, as actors can be seen mulling about in the outer edges of the screen while others cite their lines in the foreground. It’s a unique and very special way to see a movie, and is the complete antithesis to watching something on a tiny phone, or even laptop.
The Hateful Eight is quite fittingly Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film, and should certainly go down as one of his best. It marks a time when men were men, and movies were movies. It is thoroughly entertaining from the first widescreen frame to the last, with compelling and entertaining dialogue presented by an amazing cast. The film is worthy of a multitude of Academy Award nominations (and wins too-Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson are long overdue for some recognition.) It’s also, despite its length, a film you’ll want to see again and again just to be a part of the world Tarantino has realized. And any movie that draws inspiration from The Thing is something that makes the Gore 4 appreciate, and ultimately, revere The Hateful Eight even more.
— review by Brian de Castro