“This here is Daisy Domergue. She’s wanted dead or alive for murder and when that sun comes out I’m taking this woman to hang. Is there anybody here committed to stopping me from doing that?!” announces and asks John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) as he enters Minnie’s Haberdashery with his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the Western film, The Hateful Eight.
It’s been a long stagecoach ride across the mountains of Wyoming on the journey to Red Rock for bounty hunter Ruth and his prisoner as they attempt to stay ahead of a terrible blizzard. While in route they stop to pick up another bounty hunter, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and a man who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Marquis and Chris have been left stranded in the snow by their dead horses. The newly formed group of travelers isn’t able to make it to Red Rock before the blizzard will overtake them, so the stagecoach makes a stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery seeking shelter from the storm.
With Minnie gone supposedly visiting her mother on the other side of the mountain and at least two of the four men who are already at the haberdashery seeking shelter from the blizzard seeming to be out of place, it’s not long before both Ruth and Warren begin to suspect that at least one of the four men are not who or what they pretend to be and just might be in cahoots with Domergue to try to break her free.
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is an over-the-top, extremely violent Western with dynamic characters, strong performances, an ominous mood-setting musical score, and beautiful cinematography. With its three hour run time, an opening overture, plus a 15-minute intermission, Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is modeled after and harkens back to the great epic films of the 1950s and ’60s.
Kurt Russell gives a great larger-than-life performance as John “The Hangman” Ruth. a tough, no nonsense, always on his guard bounty hunter determined to not only collect his bounty but see his prisoner hang for her crime. It’s a character who, had the film been made in the ’50s or ’60s, John Wayne would have been perfect to play…in fact he did in the film True Grit.
Without a doubt the stand-out performance in the film is delivered by Jennifer Jason Leigh as the fugitive Daisy Domergue. Her callous, vile and ugly behavior toward almost everyone in the film, and especially her contempt towards Warren because he’s Black – the film is set only a few years after the Civil War – makes her a completely unsympathetic character. Yet with her little flickers of malevolent smiles and grins, Leigh conveys a sinister, dangerous and clever woman who seems to be one step ahead of all the men around her. Here’s hoping her performance is remembered during Oscar nominations.
The film is masterfully shot and the cinematography, especially before the stage coach gets to the haberdashery, is breathtaking. The opening sequence where the camera has a close-up of what seems to be a sign and turns out to be a large crucifix on the side of the mountain road covered in snow is stunning. The use of the snow, trees, and the bleak weather conditions almost becomes a character itself in the movie.
The score of the film composed by Ennio Morrricone is fantastic, setting up perfectly during the overture of the film the tone and ominous trip with deadly characters the audience is about to spend three hours watching. It also gives a dark soul to the picture and enhances every scene, making it much more powerful.
There is a problem with the film, however, after the intermission. For some reason Tarantino decides to give the film a narrator to point out a plot device which ruins the tone and part of the mystery of what is really going on at the haberdashery. After that and a telegraphed demise of one of the major characters, the film becomes all too reminiscent of an earlier film of Tarantino’s and becomes, unfortunately, very predictable. Any audience member familiar with the director’s earlier films will know exactly what is going to happen and how the film will end.
Even with a predictable third act, the compelling performances, a wonderful soundtrack, and stunning cinematography make The Hateful Eight the second best film of Tarantino’s career and one of the best pictures of the year. See it.
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity
Running Time: 168 minutes