Wyoming, several years after the Civil War. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) brings a fugitive named Daisy Domerque (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock to bring her to justice. Along the way, he meets Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union soldier who became a bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the local sheriff. Amid a blizzard, the quartet arrives at a mountain stage stop where they find refugees Bob (Demian Bichir), taking care of the business, while the owner visits his mother, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the executioner of Red Rock, cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm takes hold of the stop on the mountainside, our eight travelers come to realize that they may not be able to make it to Red Rock after all…
Tarantino’s movie proposes a survival duel between the protagonists, based on a reasonably simple plot premise: a bounty hunter, John Ruth, known as “The Gallows,” tries to bring Daisy Domergue in front of justice and fears being ambushed at any point in her path. Starting in an open space with some characters onboard a stagecoach, the movie soon sets forth in a modest inn (Minnie’s haberdashery) because of an intense snowstorm. The peculiar situation in which they find themselves talking about the relationships between The Hateful Eight and some works by Agatha Christie.
The first half of the film, divided into chapters, is full of cinematographic references such as the name of the stagecoach, “Butterfield Overland Stage,” which is the same as the one in the famous cult spaghetti western “3:10 to Yuma.” The characters begin an intelligence game typical of Agatha Christie’s stories with the difference that here they are all potential murderers. The strange thing would be that in that inn, someone is innocent. The tension increases from the high point at which the film begins, none other than the close-up when we see a crucified Christ carved on a large tree enduring an imposing blizzard while a stagecoach approaches behind him. Ennio’s music indicates that nothing good will happen from then on.
The Hateful Eight is not just a portrait of eight hateful characters in almost every way; it portrays what man can be and what he currently is. Machismo, racism, and xenophobia are seen every day, and Tarantino wants to show it locked in a spiral of violence. He presents each character with the elegance and patience characteristic of his cinema; he defines them little by little and offers those small doses of comparison with reality.
That moment in John Ruth’s diligence in which Major Warren and Daisy Domergue look at each other and understand their different but equally discriminated positions; the first for being colored and the second for being a woman, is magnificent. The rhythm there is slow; the director takes his time so that the viewer understands it. He invites the viewer to enter, take the concept and externalize it. And it works perfectly, not a minute is left over.
And the same happens later with the clearly differentiated second part of the film. The characters will judge each other based on stereotypes and prejudices (Here comes the society of today!) Setting only in one room, the second part reminds us of the classic movie 12 Angry Men (1957) by Sidney Lumet. This is where Tarantino will stand out with those excellent dialogues and the cast for their interpretations.
Characters and acting
It is inevitable to start the actors and characters section by mentioning Samuel L. Jackson as a true professional and great actor who stands out above the rest despite being at an outstanding level. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins’s acting is particularly successful, and Kurt Russell, somewhat more natural than usual, is outlined and executed with overwhelming perfection. They stand up to the constant thrust of sequences for the story. Leigh functions as the center that glues characters together without giving the impression of contributing too much. The Hateful Eight is not designed for great solo performances that overwhelm the player. The script is the set of them that inevitably overcomes the most strict set. And it does. Although Channing Tatum’s appearance is testimonial and disappointing, and the character played by Tim Roth ostensibly resembles Christoph Waltz’s in Django: Unchained.
Music and cinematography
Another highlight of the movie is the soundtrack. In this case, it is composed by the maestro Ennio Morricone who, with four notes, manages to print the touch of thriller necessary for a rising story where the most important thing is to know how to play with the narrative tempo to keep the tension resolving with an explosive ending.
Tarantino shot the whole movie old-school style with 70 mm lenses which are not very useful for interior shootings. But being a creative director, he manages to make it fit. He plans and shoots as if he were filming an epic and giving you the feeling at all times that you are attending a visual spectacle. Relying on the frame’s width and using it alternately to show all the pawns’ arrangement on the game board, he uses medium shots and impressive close-ups that allow you to appreciate even the smallest detail.
Tarantino in his purest form, violence in abundance, brilliant special effects, script with a powerful rhythm that keeps the thriller for almost 3 hours, and fabulous music, giving the classic spaghetti western feeling… Tarantino’s experimental movie divided viewers into two opposite perspectives; some loving, some hating them. But even the whole film is in the same room, we are sure that you won’t feel it for a second. That is thanks to Tarantino’s brilliance!