Review for The Hateful Eight
I thought it was just 1970s TV presenters. Now I start watching a movie and I get a chill down my spine. Harvey Weinstein is in the credits. Just seeing the name Weinstein is enough, which must be tough for his sibling. This is a problem as Quentin Tarantino films are all kinds of awesome, yet the Weinsteins have produced all of Tarantino’s films since Pulp Fiction. So now, for every couple of hours of awesomeness I want to enjoy, I have to swallow just the tiniest bitter pill. Then again, bitterness is what The Hateful Eight is all about.
John Ruth is a bounty hunter transporting the prisoner Daisy Domergue on a stagecoach to Red Rock, in a wintery, post-civil war Wyoming. He’s not the trusting kind, which explains why he’s the rare bounty hunter who brings in his prisoners alive to hang, instead of dead to just collect the reward. That’s the kind of bounty hunter that Major Marquis Warren is, a former black cavalry officer who fought for the union. His horse didn’t survive the snow, and now he has 3 dead bounties to transport to Red Rock. When they also pick up Chris Mannix, the new sheriff of Red Rock, who used to be part of a rogue Confederate unit during the war, it’s not the happiest stagecoach on the trail.
And then the blizzard hits, and they have to take shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stopping off point on the way to Red Rock. Only Minnie isn’t there. The store is being looked after by Mexican Bob, and there are three other strangers, the hangman Oswaldo Mowbray, a cowboy named Bob Gage, and a former Southern general, Sanford Smithers. But no one is quite as they seem...
How wide is your widescreen? It just got even wider with The Hateful Eight, shot in UltraPanavision, at the time only the 11th feature film in that format, and the first since Khartoum in 1966, and it’s presented here in a jaw-dropping 2.76:1 widescreen 1080p format. By god, the exterior scenes look epic! As the coach travels through a snow-covered Wyoming, the visuals are breathtaking. The irony is that most of the film takes place on interiors, in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Having said all that, the image is spectacular, rich with detail, with wonderful colours, and with no sign of compression. It’s a reference quality disc. In terms of audio as well, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround immerses you in the action and the atmosphere of the story, helped in no little way by a stunning Ennio Morricone score. The dialogue is as clear as you can get with the odd mumbling actor, and Kurt Russell channels the spirit of John Wayne in his performance. I’m amazed he didn’t call anyone ‘pilgrim’! You have English subtitles for the mumbly bits.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray, wrapped in an o-card slipcover. The disc boots to an animated menu. The extras are scant, but watchable.
Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm lasts 7:31 and gives you all you need to know about those UltraPanavision lenses, and the resurrection of the Roadshow when it came to distributing the film. This lasts 7:31.
Beyond the Eight: A Behind the Scenes Look is a 4:57 EPK featurette.
You might want a little more in the way of extras, but I’d want them on a second disc so as not to compromise the film’s presentation. Actually, there is scope for a Special Edition, as the Roadshow came with 6 minutes extra footage running to 187 mins with an overture and intermission, and there was the Netflix mini-series version which has even more footage.
I don’t know how Quentin Tarantino does it, but he takes tried and trusted genres, stretches what could be a 90-minute story into three hours, and he comes up with an electrifying movie. The Hateful Eight is a Western crossed with a locked room mystery thriller (and elements of a remake of The Defiant Ones), with a small, ensemble cast, and I was glued to the screen from beginning to end. The film presents its story in chapters, like a book, and it saves its ‘Western’ bits, the dynamic, wide vistas, the scenes of a snowbound Wyoming, introducing four of its characters for the first act, the first two chapters, as well as a ‘flashback’ sequence later on. Thereafter the story takes place in Minnie’s Haberdashery where we encounter the other four of the Eight, a large open store to be sure, but still confined and claustrophobic compared to the start of the film.
As usual for a Tarantino film, what really make this film stand out are the characterisations and the dialogue. These are such distinct, well thought out, and brilliantly written characters, that any one of them can hold the screen. It’s a fantastic ensemble cast, and it’s the minutiae of their interactions, the subtext that makes them richer and interesting. You’ve got electric performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell at the heart of the story, but the cast matches that intensity. The story is really engaging as well. As the title implies, you have eight, hate filled individuals, driven by bile, and it’s not a matter of who is plotting against who, who is goading who, it’s a question of who will snap first. These antithetical characters have just one purpose in their lives, to get under the skin of whoever they meet.
There is a weakness to the film though, and in this case it’s the on screen violence. You might be expecting that from a film called The Hateful Eight from Quentin Tarantino, but it’s presented to such a degree that it actually detracts from the film. I remember the furore over the violence in Pulp Fiction, the media outcry (especially Marvin’s death) but the truth of the matter was that it was accomplished all in the staging, the drama, and the tension, with the reaction to the violence shown more than the violence itself. The Hateful Eight shows the violence, and it is a master class in special effects, and a fantasy world where six-guns shoot howitzer shells. Seeing someone’s head explode on screen takes the movie out of its genre, it starts flirting with splatterpunk and horror, and it becomes a distraction from the drama and the story.
It’s a little bit nit-picky, but it is enough for me to not rate The Hateful Eight as highly as films like Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs. But visually The Hateful Eight is a most striking film, and the story and the characters hold the attention well. It looks spectacular on this Blu-ray, and it’s well worth picking up.