The Hateful Eight : The Bloody, Snowy tale of Murder, Mystery and Madness
[Disclaimer: The following article is based entirely on my personal view. You might agree or totally disagree with me, either way is all right. As I always believe that art is very much subjective and to each to his own.]
I will be totally honest here. During the second/third chapter of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” I somehow got bored and almost thought that this one might be a letdown in the end. Boy, I was wrong, and for that I am so glad. Right before the end of the first half QT gives a somewhat predictable yet shocking twist (will come to this later in a bit of detail) and from there on it all changes. The second half is clutching your edge-of-the-seat brilliant; but let me take a pause here and go back to the beginning.
I am a huge QT fanboy. I am not claiming that he is the best director ever or so but he and his films (albeit sometimes flawed and sometimes deeply flawed) are one of a kind. And “The Hateful Eight” is unlike something the man has ever made. Ever since this movie was announced I was excited to the level of infinity and I made it a point to catch it in theater (even if our censor board tampers it, like they always do) as watching a QT movie in theater has always been in the movie wish bucket list. And because of this, the last month was difficult as I had to overcome the temptation of watching the leaked screeners roaming all around over the internet and of course, the spoilers. Finally, after hearing lots of polarizing opinion about it (didn’t read the reviews though), I finally caught it in theater; and what an experience it was.
Now, about the film. I am a fan of the kind of story-telling which breaks the story into separate chapters (a la Kill Bill) and it was nice to see QT bringing back that thing here. In the first chapter, we see a black bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samule L. Jackson) travelling to Red Rock with three dead bodies in a snow clad rural Wyoming hitch-hiking a ride on a stagecoach with another bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is going to the same place along with a prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) cuffed with him. Ruth doesn’t hit it off with Warren first because of his racist nature but eventually bonds over the fact that Warren is a close friend of President Abraham Lincoln and has a letter of Lincoln with him.
In the second chapter, a man named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) joins them and asks them to take him with them, claiming himself to be the new sheriff of Red Rocks. Though unwilling at first, but eventually Roth takes him along and all four of them, along with the one riding the stagecoach reach at the Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they meet the Mexican Bob (Demian Bichir) claiming to be the temporary owner of the Haberdashery, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Routh) claiming to be the Hangman of Red Rock, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) aka the quite cowboy and General Smithers (Bruce Dern) who hates black people to the core. The all-important third chapter and the rest of the film take place here.
Coming back to what I said earlier, in the second and third chapter it really feels like the film being dragged unnecessarily. Although it is clearly understood that these chapters are there only to set things up for the later chapters, but it still doesn’t add up. However, being the master filmmaker he is, QT changes everything before half time with one move. The second half, of course, is the highlight of the film where everything important happens. In fact the second half which starts with a sudden unexpected narration by QT himself, almost feels like a very different film with the same characters.
Now, time to talk about the huge ensemble cast. Let me say that almost each and everyone have given superlative acting performance here, thanks to the characters of the film were very well written. Both Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell have nailed their respective characters. Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen (a fine actor and QT regular) and Tim Routh (in a role probably written for Christoph Waltz maybe?) have done very well. Channing Tatum has impressed in a small, but very much significant role. The real stars, of course are Walton Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh, both probably giving the performances of their entire career. Leigh, especially, has given a kind of performance which needs to be applauded and appreciated (and rewarded with the Academy award, although I haven’t seen the other nominated performances yet)
Another highlight of the film is the brilliant, haunting soundtrack by none other than Maestro Ennio Morricone. The soundtrack, playing almost a character takes the film to another level by making it much better than it really is. Robert Richardson, QT’s trusted cinematographer has shot the film beautifully, like always. However, it is Fred Raskin’s editing where the film really falls flat.
In the end, The Hateful Eight stands as a grandeur of a film, which is not perfect by all means, and too much long (thanks to the poor editing, I guess), but still a great mystery thriller masquerading as a snowboarding western. This one, might not be as entertaining as his earlier films (keeping aside Death Proof, of course), but still Quentin Tarantino should be lauded for his eighth effort. The ninth, I hope tops this one.