Director Quentin Tarantino has apparently had enough of delivering fans films that are mash ups of genres he loves and instead seems to want to challenge his audience the older he gets. Any artist grows the older they become and Tarantino has grown, exploring cinema that’s gradually more polarizing and alienating as time goes on. Quentin Tarantino hasn’t lost his ability to tell a story and unfold an interesting narrative, as he’s hellbent on exploring a character piece that’s less action and call backs to past genres, and more of an implementation of certain genres to create what has been his most divisive film to date.
Watching “The Hateful Eight” is a unique experience where Tarantino is able to assemble a top notch cast of brilliant actors and performers, all of whom play despicable scoundrels and murderers. Tarantino has never been a man who delivers innocent and noble characters, opting instead to follow murderers, mobsters, thieves, and the like. Even with “Inglorious Basterds,” we were never quite following noble heroes. With “The Hateful Eight,” Tarantino ignores all of his previous history altering films and is more intent on conveying a narrative that’s slow boil, gradually builds in tension, and focuses on a more realistic era where most of the racial and class separation amounts to a small cabin in the middle of a snow storm where paranoia and hatred reign supreme.
Tarantino is a marvelous visualist who opens up a whole new landscape in the West, bringing together a slew of cowboys and ruffians to engage in what is basically a classic Agatha Christie mystery. Were it not for the massive violence and gruesome finale, I’d peg this as a definite ode the Hercule Poirot films of classic cinema. Set after the end of the civil war, bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren is transporting his own bounty with three corpses to the town of Red Rock, Wyoming. Stranded in the snow, he hitches a ride on a horse and carriage and meets John “The Hangman” Ruth another bounty hunter transporting vicious criminal and bandit Daisy Domgergue to collect his bounty. With her cuffed to him, “The Hangman” is intent on keeping Daisy within ear shot and he reveals his more than unusual tendency at paranoia and hysteria when it comes to earning his rightful financial keep in his job.
Daisy is a violent and vicious woman who endures “The Hangman” but also has a tendency to antagonize him, which amounts to a lot of brilliant banter and back and forth between characters. The palaver and healthy one-liners is what Tarantino is known for, and his hefty exposition along with setting up the pieces of the puzzle with his collective of vicious bastards is compelling and altogether despicable. Taking refuge from the storm at a small cabin called “Minnie’s Haberdashery,” the foursome of travelers meet fellow drifters holdin up from within and a lot of secrets are cast in to the light, especially when Warren realizes he’s one of the only African American men within a mix of racists and potential lynchers. “The Hateful Eight” feels like a very unique narrative split in half, where one part is exploring these brutally disgusting characters communing with each other and learning more about one another.
As the night dwells on, someone poisons the only supply of coffee. The death causes immediate panic among the collection of characters, prompting Warren to investigate who among these individuals is a murderer and what the intended to accomplish while tainting the supply. The myriad performances from the cast are remarkable, as Tarantino implements his keen talent for bringing the absolute best out of every cast member. Samuel L Jackson is right at home with Tarantino, offering a powerhouse turn alongside folks like Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and Bruce Dern. Among the bang up performers, Jennifer Jason Leigh is a stand out as Daisy Domergue, the slimy and sadistic worm whose dimensions and personality slowly unravel as the blood rises to the surface, prompting much more tension and stakes as Tarantino unfolds his thoughtful and incredbily engrossing narrative. “The Hateful Eight” aims for more of a downbeat narrative with a lot more focus on character than action, and it’s a clear cut depiction of the ugliness of humanity with all characters standing as a representation of the dregs of the aftermath of war, racism, and murder.
Tarantino continues to challenge himself as a writer, and has enough respect for his audience to challenge them with a narrative that’s absolutely outstanding and one of a kind. Tarantino doesn’t just love movies, he understands them.
Other than a digital copy of the film, shockingly “The Hateful Eight” is scant on extras There’s a five minute Behind the Senes segment that doesn’t offer much in the realm of insight and footage in to the production of the film. There’s also the eight minute “Sam Jackson’s Guide to the Glorious,” which looks at the Ultra Panavision aesthetic of the film. It’s troubling this is all fans of the film are handed what with the background of the film, and the stage reading that ensued. Maybe the studio are saving all the best supplements for a Special Edition, or Boxed Set somewhere down the line.