Restraint has been quite popular this year for a few filmmakers who had seemed to forgotten the meaning of the word. Quentin Tarantino is the latest with “The Hateful Eight”.
“The Hateful Eight” is Tarantino’s second Western film, and it’s set in a violent blizzard in Wyoming. Colonel Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) sits on a pile of dead bounties and a stage coach featuring fellow bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and convict Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) offer him a ride.
Along the way, they pick up a dimwitted sheriff named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), and the four find themselves in a lodge with four other strangers – retired confederate general Smithers (Bruce Dern), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), British hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), and lodge owner Bob (Demian Bichir).
It’s when the eight characters meet each other that “The Hateful Eight” turns into a bloody Western play with elements of dark comedy, murder mystery, and even a brief moment of body horror. This is not “Django Unchained” (which is good, but not his best) or “Inglourious Basterds” (which I loved). This is a glimpse of what Tarantino’s future looks like as a playwright/novelist.
Tarantino uses 70mm film stock to beautifully photograph exterior landscapes and pay close attention to detail within the elaborate lodge set-piece. His script is cleverly written since he’s restrained his humor and ego. I mean that we hear Tarantino’s character’s talk; not Tarantino.
The characters are by far the best part of “Eight”. Jackson’s Warren is a menacing vengeful sociopath who takes pride in bounty hunting and his role in the civil war. Russell’s Ruth is an arrogant and misogynistic bounty hunter who respects his hardened allies. Leigh’s Daisy starts as a foul and quirky convict who gets increasingly psychotic throughout the film. Goggins’ Mannix is the most dynamic character, seeing he’s a bigoted-yet-noble sheriff.
The first half of “The Hateful Eight” is all about mystery and tension, which is masterfully built and paced, thanks to Ennio Morricone’s mesmerizing score, eerie shots reminiscent of John Carptenter’s “The Thing,” and interactions between the characters. The second half gets meta and over-the-top with loads of blood splatter and revelations.
I love Tarantino and I was greatly impressed with his execution in “The Hateful Eight”. It was less of a film tribute and more of an actual film. Even with the trademark heads blowing off, the racial slurs, and the similarities to “Reservoir Dogs,” it’s one damn innovative Western.