The Hateful Eight Review

This is Snow Usual Western

“That’s the problem with old men. You can kick ’em down the stairs, and say it’s an accident, but you can’t just shoot ’em.”

– John Ruth, The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is quite possibly Quentin Tarantino’s most grown up movie. That’s not to say the movie is a departure from the traits we expect from a Tarantino movie; there is still the healthy dose of black humour, violence, and lengthy dialogue between the eponymous eight cast members. We are instead treated to a mystery, what I can only really describe as a whodunit stage play shot on film, though not just any film, glorious 70mm film.

Set almost entirely in one location, an outpost called Minnie’s Haberdashery, the eight strangers converge to take shelter during a blizzard. We have Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russell), two bounty hunters who run into each other on the road to Minnie’s on their way to Red Rock to turn in their bounties. Warren’s bounties are all dead but Ruth’s is being brought in alive. Enter hateful number three: Miss Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who has a bounty of ten thousand dollars on her head for murder. En route to their destination they meet Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a former Confederate soldier who just so happens to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, or so he claims.

Upon reaching Minnie’s Haberdashery they realise that they are not alone in taking shelter from the weather. General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), an old Confederate army General; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cattle wrangler on his way home for Christmas; Bob (Demian Bichir), the Mexican stable hand left in charge of Minnie’s whilst the owners are away, and Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), a proper British Gentleman who also happens to be the hangman of Red Rock. In the vein of any good murder mystery, the next two and a half hours are spent picking apart the stories of all of the characters in an effort to glean who is telling the truth about they are, and who is in cahoots with miss Domergue.

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70mm filmmaking is now pretty much a defunct format, so defunct in fact that the filmmakers had to refurbish all of their camera equipment in order to shoot. 70mm makes looking at the wide shots of the Wyoming wilds and letting us see almost all of the interior of Minnie’s Haberdashery in one shot possible, but that’s not the most special part; that honour is reserved for the film’s Roadshow version. Presented only in certain cinemas (one alone in the UK) the film runs for 186mins and includes an overture at the beginning and an intermission halfway through in what truly is an ode to 70mm filmmaking.

It would be unwise to go into this film expecting guns blazing, balls to the wall violence and action that has been expected of Tarantino films of late, particularly the style set out in Inglorious Basterds and Django. Interestingly The Hateful Eight was initially written as a sequel to Django. You can see a little of Django in Jackson’s Marquis Warren; Django had a strong sense of justice and a strong moral compass whereas Major Warren is a deplorable character, something which Tarantino himself noticed, and thus The Hateful Eight became it’s own entity.

The score in any Tarantino film is a bit special and almost serves as a character in it’s own right. Nowhere more does this ring true than with The Hateful Eight, for which legendary film composer Ennio Morricone has composed a haunting soundtrack that lends itself perfectly to the long, drawn out shots of the snow-covered wilds of Wyoming. The music is surprisingly less akin to the score for films such as The Good The Bad and The Ugly and more like the music that permeates the air in Italian Horror films (or Giallo), much like the music Morricone wrote for films by Italian Horror maestro Dario Argento.

Oswaldo Mobray and Chris Mannix

Oswaldo Mobray and Chris Mannix

As with all Tarantino movies, homage and an obsessive fascination with cinema drive the style and tone of the film. The most obvious connection would be to Sergio Leone’s The Man With No Name Trilogy. A lesser known influence and another “Snow Western” is The Great Silence, a film about revenge and, much like The Hateful Eight, has a cast of generally unlikeable characters.

For the first time, Tarantino pays homage to another collection of classic films: his own. Most notable among them is Reservoir Dogs; both pictures offer us a cast of miscreants and are predominately set in one location, with one part of a story that had begun quite some time before the film itself commences. There are also smacks of Pulp Fiction and Django here too.

The Hateful Eight does not hold our hands and gently guide us through its meandering course, instead choosing to dump its audience into the final moments of a story where it is implied that each of the characters have had at least one film’s worth of story to reach the point at which we meet them. Instead of being given any explanation or flashback to explain what brought them to this point, we are simple told that this is the story we are here to see, so deal with it.

All eight of the refugees holed up in Minnie’s Haberdashery are, as the name of the film suggests, despicable. So rather than give us an action romp, we are instead presented with an intimate character study. All eight give brilliant performances, in particular Jackson and Goggins. Chris Mannix has the most satisfying story arc and the exchanges between him and Marquis Warren are the most interesting. Taking place just after the end of the Civil War, racial tensions are high. Mannix was a Confederate and Warren was a major in the Union army, formerly a slave. It’s satisfying to see them reduced to equals by the end of the film.

Be prepared to sit through an incredibly dialogue heavy three hours of film. In true Tarantino fashion, the exchanges between characters, in particular conversations between John Ruth and the rest of the cast and later Marquis Warren and the rest, are what drives the film. Marquis Warren, in fact, delivers what is possibly The best and most intense Tarantino monologue, for rivalling even the drug deal story Tim Roth tells in Reservoir Dogs and the pocket watch story delivered by Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction.

Watten and Ruth's first meeting

Warren and Ruth’s first meeting

Much like a play, the action takes place in one location and is possibly played out in real time save for the 15-minute jump during which the intermission takes place. Characters often announce that they are going to do something before doing it and things as simple as making a coffee are protracted so instead of simply cutting to John Ruth making a coffee or cutting away to something more interesting as he makes it, an early scene follows him around Minnie’s Haberdashery as he gathers the coffee pot, coffee beans, water and sets it on the stove.

There is a healthy dose of John Carpenter’s The Thing, not only because of Kurt Russell and a small eclectic cast being trapped from the outside world by a storm, but also in the way story is eked out through the exchanges between characters and, later, paranoia sets in and we watch as they all slowly turn on each other.

Marquis Warren becomes Hercule Poirot for the last act, testing everybody’s story and bringing the truth to light. I was expecting more of a murder mystery if I’m honest. Throughout the film I was on the lookout for a big twist or clues to something that was staring me in the face the whole time, but that’s not what you get here. The answer is far more simple, but that’s what keeps the film grounded; there is no convoluted plot at work here.

The Hateful Eight, in short, is not a film for everyone, it’s not even a film for Tarantino fans; it is a film for film lovers and fans of meticulous filmmaking. It serves as a true testament to his skill at weaving a story around characters that are unlikeable and who are totally un-relatable to an audience but fascinating to watch, holding the viewer’s attention completely. At the end of the film, as with all Tarantino films, I am left incredibly entertained and wondering what he will follow it up with.

Do you agree with our verdict? Tell us in the comments below.

– Dan P



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