Quentin Tarantino is an interesting guy. He is easily one of the most respected cinematic auteurs and one of the most divisive. For every person who counts his films among their favorites, there is another person condemning their poor taste, propagation of violence, and pure unadulterated nastiness. He has had more people criticize him of encouraging violence than any modern director that I can think of. He also is not one to back down from critics, often considering their questions to be idiotic or misinformed. Personally, I tend to side with Quentin. From the way that I can best guess, if you don’t like his films he unapologetically did not make them for you. Realistically, he seems to only make films for one person- Quentin Tarantino. It is with that singular train of thought to please himself and piss off his critics that Tarantino has made some incredible masterpieces.
Before The Hateful Eight, his last film, Django Unchained, had its fair share of controversy. The film ran afoul of some critics for a brutal scene where two slaves fought to the death and for the amount of times the film used the word “nigger.” Given that the hero of the film played by Jamie Foxx was a freed slave in the pre-Civil War south, Tarantino probably thought that these critics had seen a different film. From his perspective, if you felt nervous when they said “nigger” that is a good thing. It is not meant to make the audience feel comfortable. It is a reminder of a time that makes all of us uncomfortable and we should not forget that. That said, if that film made you uncomfortable with its free reign on using the above mentioned word, prepare to feel very uncomfortable again. The word will be used liberally throughout the entire film.
Now, onto the film itself.
The Hateful Eight begins with a horse drawn carriage riding through a blizzard. The carriage is pulled by O.B. Jackson (James Park.) Inside the carriage are John “The Hangman” Ruth (the man himself, Kurt Russell) and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (a truly fantastic and Academy nominated Jennifer Jason Leigh.) The carriage is flagged down by Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson,) a former Union soldier and bounty hunter. When they see him in the road he is perched atop three bodies of bounties to claim. John Ruth agrees to let him share their carriage to Minnie’s Habberdashery, a cabin to wait out the storm. Along the way they also pick up Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) a former Rebel raider. When they pull up to Minnie’s Habberdashery there are four more characters to meet: Bob the Mexican (Damian Bechir,) Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern,) Joe Gage (Michael Madsen,) and British fish-out-of-the-water Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth.) As the blizzard rages on and all are trapped, many secrets will be revealed and people’s connections to one another will unfold.
So, the movie may be divisive as hell. It is undoubtedly Tarantino’s nastiest piece of work. Many will find the film overly mean spirited. When my brother and I walked out of the theatre we both said, “Man, that was evil.” We also both loved it. The moment this film came out on Blu-ray it was the first thing on my list outside of work. I personally think that repeated viewings of this film will lead to this becoming a cult favorite. It may never gain the devout following of Tarantino’s earlier films, but it is an exciting film.
Why am I so amped about this movie in particular? First of all, the film plays with genre and form unlike almost anything that I can think of off the top of my head. The first forty minutes have a true Western vibe, then inside the cabin a murder mystery vibe, and then what can only be proclaimed a Tarantino style finish. It is all so uniquely itself and pays homage in ways that are brilliantly realized. Second off, the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Tarantino’s use of the frame in this film and the film stock and lenses used to achieve it are breathtaking. Third, Ennio Morricone came out of retirement to deliver a score and won his first Academy Award. Poetic justice to say the least. Fourth, the acting in the film is pitch perfect. Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, and Kurt Russell all chewing the scenery together? Oh yeah. Fifth, it demands a second viewing. Trust me.
Video: How’s it look?
I was lucky enough to see the film in theatre with my brother. This film is unique in that it was shot in Ultra Panasonic for the 70MM format, the widest possible format and lenses possible. In theatre the film looked truly astounding and it was well worth viewing there. Now that it is on video, Anchor Bay/Starz have done a fantastic job of transferring the film to Blu-ray. That said, since the film itself is in such a large format, there are black bars around the frame to preserve the wide spectrum of the film. I did not own a TV wide enough to view it without the bars, and it is one of the times in my life that I most wanted a projector. This is a gorgeous film and a great transfer. Fine detail is incredible. Wait until you can see it!
Audio: How’s it sound?
This is a very strong DTS Master Audio 5.1 track, managing to use all of the surround channels effectively. The film has an incredible score from arguably the greatest film composer of all time, Ennio Morricone. Hearing his score in the theatre and seeing his name on the screen brought a tear to my eye, and again as I watched him accept his academy award for this film. The sound design for the film is incredibly competent and the Blu-ray holds up to those standards. I think certain sequences of this film are truly demo quality. Great stuff.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The special features run just under twelve minutes on my Best Buy Steelbook. What the hell? This movie deserves better than that.
Beyond the Eight: A Behind the Scenes Look (1080p; 4:58) is a very brief EPK featuring interviews and snippets from the film.
Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm (1080p; 7:49) although short, this contains some great information about how they shot the film with Ultra Panavision lenses that had been out of commission since the sixties.
These special features only whetted my appetite, making me straight up angry that they would give so little.
The Bottom Line
In my eyes, The Hateful Eight is easily one of the best pictures of the last year. It is an incredibly rewarding and crazy experience to behold with Tarantino tuning genre after genre on its head. This is going to be a divisive film, as evidenced by critical response which was even more mixed than usual for Tarantino, and that is saying something. I love this movie. I would give this Blu Ray a perfect score on the technical merits and content of the film alone, but the supplements are inexcusably non existent dragging the score down. If they come out with another edition with supplements, I will double dip and purchase it. But for now, go out and buy this film. People will still be talking about this one in twenty years, and I know that I will still be defending it!