Friday, December 2, 2016

#2,264. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Tag line: "Spend the holidays with someone you hate"

Trivia: This is only the eleventh film to be shot in the Ultra Panavision 70 process

In 2012, while on The Howard Stern Show, director Quentin Tarantino discussed his announcement that, after making 10 films, he plans to retire. “I don’t want to be an old man director past his prime, whose best work is behind him”, he said, and as an example he pointed to Billy Wilder, one of the greatest filmmakers in Hollywood history, who, having made classics like Double Indemnity, Stalag 17, and Sunset Blvd. early on, turned out 4 movies in the ‘70s that didn’t measure up: Avanti, The Front Page, Fedora and Buddy Buddy (Tarantino admits he did enjoy Avanti, but called the other 3 “God fucking awful”). “One bad movie devalues three good ones”, he said, and he doesn’t want a bad picture to mar his otherwise brilliant filmography.

Well, 2015's The Hateful Eight is movie #8, and thus far, Mr. Tarantino has gotten his wish. Like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2), Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight is a tremendous motion picture.

As the movie opens, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is on a stagecoach with his latest capture, outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who he plans to deliver to the town of Red Rock, where, after he collects the bounty on her head, she will be hanged for her crimes. Along the way, he picks up two men left stranded in the wilderness: Union Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a fellow bounty hunter whose horse died on him; and former Confederate renegade Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is about to be named the new sheriff of Red Rock. With a fierce snow fast approaching, the stage decides to pull into Minnie’s Haberdashery, a nearby rest stop, where the four of them, as well as the driver, O.B. Jackson (James Parks), will wait out the storm.

Surprisingly, Minnie herself is not there. According to Bob (Demián Bichir), who is running the Haberdashery in her absence, Minnie is visiting her mother on the other side of the mountain. What’s more, another stagecoach had the same idea, and arrived a bit earlier carrying Oswaldo Mobray, (Tim Roth), the local hangman; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy on his way home to visit his mother; and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), who has traveled to Wyoming to look for his son.

Being a less than trustful man, Jonh Ruth suspects that someone is not who they claim to be, and is trying to rescue Daisy Domergue before he can turn her over to the authorities. As the hours drag on and the storm rages outside, tensions run high in Minnie’s haberdashery, but the question remains: who can John Ruth trust, and who is waiting for their chance to put a bullet in his head?

Coming on the heels of Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight marks Tarantino’s second western in a row, though it’s actually more of a mystery than it is a frontier adventure, weaving an Agatha Christie-like whodunit in which a good many characters have something to hide. On a technical level, The Hateful Eight is stunning, with gorgeous cinematography that brings the snowy landscape to life (with Colorado standing in for Wyoming), and a vibrant musical score by the great Ennio Morricone, who netted his first-ever Oscar (aside from his 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award) for his work in this film. In addition, Tarantino crafted a “Roadshow” version of the movie that played in 70mm, the first since 1966’s Khartoum to utilize that format.

And like most of the director’s best pictures, the script for The Hateful Eight is one of its strong points, featuring colorful conversations and a few surprising twists that will surely catch you off-guard (even with the majority of the movie taking place in a single setting, the crisp dialogue ensures that it never once feels stagebound). Throw in plenty of that Tarantino violence (which is as sudden as it is brutal) and excellent performances by everyone involved (especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, who earned BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award Nominations for her turn as the ornery Daisy Domergue), and you have a movie that satisfies on every level.

While I certainly understand his reasons for wanting to retire after 10 films, I have to say I’m a bit depressed by the thought that, eventually, I won’t have a new Quentin Tarantino movie to look forward to. Fortunately, there are 2 more yet to come before I have to worry about this.

And, of course, I’ll always have The Hateful Eight to watch over and over again…

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