Set sometime after the Civil War, The Hateful Eight follows Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) who is taking his fugitive captive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) towards the town of Red Rock to hang. Along the road, they encounter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) (an infamous bounty hunter) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) (a man who claims to be Red Rock’s new sheriff). Lost in a blizzard, the bunch seeks refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery. When they arrive they are greeted by unfamiliar faces who at the time seem like nothing more than average travelers, but once things begin to go down, it becomes evident that not everyone is what they may seem to be.
And so begins The Hateful Eight, the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino, his second western in a row, which after some controversy finally made it to the screens. And while it’s safe to say that it’s almost completely different from anything Tarantino has ever done, it is nonetheless yet another fantastic film from someone who is no stranger to making fantastic films.
What makes The Hateful Eight so different from Tarantino’s other work is that it feels almost like a stage play. It has shades of Reservoir Dogs in regards to the way the film puts its characters together in an isolated location, but what sets it apart from Reservoir Dogs is that it is set in one location, in this case, a lodge.
Once again, writing is king in a Tarantino film. The characters are some of the greatest and most interesting one’s ever written by him, the dialogue is meticulously constructed and the intricately woven, jigsaw puzzle of a plot keeps you guessing right up to the bloody, brilliant end. The film also has this murder-mystery element going on, very much in the spirit of the old Agatha Christie mysteries which only adds to the intrigue.
The Hateful Eight is also an extremely entertaining film. Despite a nearly three-hour running time the film never gets boring. There are moments of biting black comedy in the film, but also some really dark moments that make it Tarantino’s bleakest film yet by a fair margin.
Tarantino is a masterful storyteller and his command over his craft is made evident here. The first half of the film is almost deliberately paced, it takes its sweet time in introducing us to the characters and letting us know them but slowly and steadily, Tarantino ramps up the tension and suspense with incredible wit and restraint, until the film reaches its boiling point and once the blood begins the spill, the film reminds anyone who wasn’t already sure that they are watching a Quentin Tarantino film.
The performances are superb across the board. This is the best ensemble cast Tarantino has ever assembled in my opinion. Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson are fantastic for the most part of the film until Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins steal the show from them. Goggins, who most people will remember from FX’s The Shield and Justified is an absolute revelation here and I was amazed at the way his character evolved in the film and at the gravitas he brought to the role.
The film also happens to be Tarantino’s most gorgeous film yet. It’s shot on 70mm film and has some great visual flamboyance despite being set in a big room for nearly the entirety of its runtime. Ennio Morricone’s score is magnificent to say the least and is so integral in setting the mood for the film, while also helping build tension and suspense at key moments.
The Hateful Eight is gripping cinema. It’s a superbly crafted, wickedly funny and thoroughly entertaining film that easily ranks as one of the best films of Tarantino’s career and this year.