Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Hateful Eight review

The Hateful Eight (2015)
Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins

John "the Hangman" Ruth (Russell) is traveling to the town of Red Rock with his latest bounty, Daisy Domergue (Leigh), when a blizzard strands him at Minnie's Haberdashery with several other questionable characters.

When Quentin Tarantino announced that his follow to Django Unchained was going to be another western, I kind of thought that this would be another project that he announced and never filmed (like the Vega Brothers film, or Killer Crow, the Inglorious Basterds spinoff). Then there was the fiasco with the script being leaked where he made claims that he wasn't going to film it and possibly release it as a novel. Then it was announced as being a film shot in the 70mm format, and with Ennio Morricone providing the score. That was reason enough to be excited for the film.

One the surface, the film is very similar to Reservoir Dogs, where both films focus on groups of bad people who can't trust each other trapped in one location. The movie feels like one that could have easily been easily done as a stage play, or a live teleplay broadcast from the 1950s. But the closed setting gives the film a tense, claustrophobic feel, and it adds to the paranoia that the characters feel. But the biggest difference it that this movie is mean. The title having the word "Hateful" in it is very apt. All of the characters get a chance to make you like them, but each of the characters also get an equal amount of moments that show you how awful they can be. And of the eight, it's impossible for me to pick one out as the "hero" of the story. One the surface it could be the character of John Ruth, and the baggage that casting Russell brings to it. We're expected to see his character as a hero, but his actions in the movie constantly show him in a bad light, as he seems to get joy from beating Daisy for any little offense that she commits. 

Each of the actors is great in their roles, but Walton Goggins is outstanding as Chris Mannix. He has a ton of experience playing likable bad guys after years of working on The Shield and Justified. Mannix spends spends the first half being very racist towards Samuel L. Jackson's Major Warren. But as events unfold the two are forced to cooperate, and as more is revealed you see how the characters mirror each other. Warren was considered a terrorist for his actions against the South during the war, while Mannix is branded a terrorist for his post war actions, having been a member of a rebel army led by his father. Both characters are both played by actors who are very capable of being likable while playing very disposable characters. 

While Hateful Eight mines similar racial areas that Django Unchained, Django Unchained leaned more towards exploitation. The Hateful Eight plays it more serious and more realistic, in a way. But what's interesting about the film is how timely it seems given the recent events of the nation. Chris Mannix at one point says “when niggers are scared, white folks feel safe". While that line works in terms of the post civil war era that the film is set, it also seems apt for right now, with the rash of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers, and especially with the anti-Muslim movement that has been advanced by some of the current contenders for the Presidency. 

I was fortunate to be able to see this in the 70mm format, and I'm very happy that I did and my screening went off without any problems. And I got a nifty program:

There seems to be 8 different versions of the program, each with a different member of the cast featured in the centerfold. I got Goggins, and I am fine with that. 

My initial reaction to Hateful Eight is that I liked it, but it wasn't as fun as Django Unchained. It's an extremely different type of film. This film is an amazingly well acted film. It's still an amazing accomplishment, and while it wasn't my favorite film of 2015* It is something that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible, even if you can't make to a 70mm presentation. 

*It's Mad Max: Fury Road. My top five is probably 1) Mad Max Fury Road 2) Hateful Eight 3) Kingsmen: The Secret Service 4) Ex Machina 5) either Spy or It Follows. Granted I still haven't seen The Martian, Creed, or Crimson Peak yet. Or Bone Tomahawk and Inside Out.

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