Our first movie review and I choose a three-hour murder mystery where plot secrets make a difference? Remind me next time to just pop in a Michael Bay movie and relax.
The Hateful Eight
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demián Bichir, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern
167 min. R
It is important to leave the surprises alone and I will do so, because I do recommend you see this movie. But it is a qualified recommend. The qualification is the director, Quentin Tarantino. The man has earned his reputation for strong language and strong violence. This movie is no exception. The first two-thirds of the movie are somewhat mild, at least on blood. However, about an hour and a half into the movie, the red syrup gets tossed liberally.
This leads me to the one surprise I will give away. It was a surprise that had my jaw on the floor. This movie is an almost three hour western version of John Carpenter’s 1981 suspense horror The Thing. From the leading role of Kurt Russell to much of the plot, this movie is a surprise recreation. Many of the promotional interviews leading up to The Hateful Eight involved Tarantino praising the work of composer Ennio Morricone. His work in westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are timeless. Supposedly, Tarantino wanted him to return to westerns for this movie. I can’t help but wonder, after seeing The Hateful Eight, if Tarantino had other motives, as this score sounds much more like a horror score and Morricone co-wrote the music for The Thing along with John Carpenter. All of this was a delightful revelation because The Thing is one of my top 5 favorite movies.
I’ll do my best to give you the plot without revealing anything. We start with Kurt Russell, a bounty hunter, transporting an infamous female murderer to a town called Red Rock so she can be hanged. Along the way he begrudgingly picks up Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins (in what might be his first role I found enjoyable). They are caught in a blizzard and have to stop at a place called Minnie’s Haberdashery where they find the rest of the hateful bunch. After everyone has been introduced, Kurt Russell’s character finds some of other stories a bit suspicious. Russell spends most of the movie suspicious of anyone he meets. Samuel L. Jackson takes up the role of Sherlock Holmes as we see him going from person to person asking probing questions and suspicions run high that someone isn’t who they say they are. As I said, the majority of the movie takes place at Minnie’s. Once the stagecoach arrives, that’s where you’ll be for the remainder of the movie. I truthfully can’t tell you more without spoiling any surprises.
If you are a fan of Tarantino movies (and I am) then you will get everything you expect and more. The sharp dialogue that draws you in is there and the visuals in this movie cannot possibly disappoint. Despite being in a cabin for 98% of the movie, you feel totally transported to what a harsh winter might be like in 1870’s Wyoming. The movie’s long running time is filled with plenty of conversation that truly builds these characters into real people you are interested in.
One concern I had going into this movie was that the magical power Tarantino has to suck you into his dialogue would vanish without the fast-paced modern references. I’m not quite up to date on my post-civil war humor, but Quentin proves that he is more than a Kevin Smith equivalent. The only dialogue I found lacking (and even took me out of the movie at times) was from Sam Jackson.
I’ll give you a moment to wipe that shocked look off your face…
Typically Jackson shines and takes over a movie with his strong rhetorical power, but this was high-highs and low-lows. Part-way through the movie Jackson delivers a monologue where he essentially steps to the side, stares directly into the camera and says “black people have had a bad time in America!” Not to say I disagree, but it was a bit pandering. And later he recalls meeting the son of another character in a highly profane, unnecessary from his point of view, completely anachronistic story that has purpose in the overall plot but truly removes you from the movie. Much to my surprise, this is the part in the movie where we see full frontal male nudity. That’s one of the few things Tarantino typically skips out on, so be warned.
You also get the standard non-chronological storytelling and the movie is divided into chapters with titles, as was done in Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and others. This may, however, be the first time Tarantino records some narration himself.
For the newcomer to Tarantino and for anyone who hesitates to see this film, I will offer some context but just know that if you struggle in any way with foul language or violence in films, this truly is not a movie for you. Like all of his films, the extreme content isn’t without purpose, but it is memorable and often.
Here is my pitch for why someone might enjoy seeing a Quentin Tarantino film and I can sum it up in one word: passion! Quentin has never and will never do a paycheck movie. When he writes and directs a film you can be sure he has put his heart and soul into every second of the film. Tarantino grew up without a father and readily admits to being raised by television and film. While that is a sad fact, his deep knowledge of classic cinema of any genre is brought to the screen in a way that is undeniably stylish and bold. He is a man of the 70’s, so his movies are usually longer, character driven, and have no time for politically correct dialogue. When Tarantino made Django Unchained, a film about a slave in 1850’s southern America going back to find his wife and get revenge on her master, you saw the evils of slavery. You felt a small amount of the horrors that took place not that long ago.
I love Quentin Tarantino movies because they are a labor of love from a man who has more movie knowledge than any writer, director or actor you’ll see. He makes a quality product and along the way shows you why you should love the same films he loves. From the Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction crime films, to the Kill Bill 1 & 2 samurai genre, to his recent love for the spaghetti western in Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight. Much like traveling to a different culture and trying their finest cuisine, his movies challenge you to expand your palate and try something new.
Looking at this film from a Christian worldview, the title truly does say it all. This movie shows the depths of hate we experience as humans. A small room filled with eight people, just after the civil war. Some sympathizing with the north and some with the south, and a confident black man in the middle. There are some incredibly tense moments and some meant to bring up thoughts about current racial struggles America has seen. Once again, to go into detail about any resolution for this hate might spoil the film’s surprise but I do want to say that there is a kind of resolution in the end, in relation to race and hatred.
Whenever I come across a story that involves revenge and hatred that is passed on, I’m immediately brought to the cross of Christ. For all the sinful inclinations and war and sacrifice we continually make at the altar of hatred and anger, God made the final sacrifice. Christs death is where the back and forth can stop. His blood could be the last blood that needs to be spilled. It is a sad reminder that humanity feels the need to toil in vain over power and greed and ideological supremacy.
By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again—sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. Hebrews 10:10-14 NET
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Review by Ryan