Curtis Parvin’s thoughts on The Hateful Eight

It is Tuesday, March 29th and I am bursting at the seams. New release day is here and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is almost in my possession.

I am so excited to see QT’s new film I missed the roadshow screening in the winter of 2015. This was a special engagement 70 mm print screening of the film with an overture, intermission, extra scenes, and a limited edition glossy program – special cameras were even made with Panavision lenses to get that classic cinematic look only celluloid stock can deliver.

Upon finishing Tarantino’s epic 3 hour meditation on racism in the old west, I kicked myself for not having seen it sooner. Not only is The Hateful Eight my favorite film of 2015, I’d also consider it in the top tier of films that Tarantino has ever made! Aside from good writing and a well-acted story, the film’s socio-political themes force the audience to deal with America’s bloody past.

The film begins with shots of a blizzard and a crucifix covered in snow. A horse-drawn carriage pulls to a halt in front of a man standing near a pile of corpses.

“Got room for one more?” asks Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) as he puffs on his pipe.

He persuades John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and Ruth’s prisoner, a battered woman named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Lee) to give him a lift. Soon, a drifter named Chris Mannix joins their party, claiming to be the sheriff of their final destination, a town called Red Rock.

The blizzard gets too intense for further travel, so our protagonists’ carriage pulls up to a wooden cabin called Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait out the storm overnight. Here, more shady characters are introduced, and the Tarantino All-Stars™ assemble. Actors Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) and Michael Madsen (Reservior Dogs, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2)  have been with QT since the inception of his career and really shine here.  One plays loquacious and sophisticated, the other gruff and enigmatic. Both are surely up to no good.

The last 2 strangers are a confederate general, Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) and a Mexican farmhand, Señor Bob (Demián Bichir), but I can’t revealany more without spoiling the many twists and turns of The Hateful Eight.

However, I can say this…

Quentin Tarantino is a very polarizing filmmaker. It’s likely that general audiences are going to split into two camps over this film: those who get what he is trying to do and those who don’t. QT is trying to accomplish what his idol Martin Scorsese has in his own filmography: entertain an audience while simultaneously hitting them very hard with provocative imagery and themes. Tarantino is a bigger fan of more exploitative cinema than Scorcese, however, and thus, his approach can be a bit too confrontational for some viewers.

Stated bluntly, QT isn’t afraid to shove violence/gore right in your face. What many people dislike about his work is his seeming justification of violence. Detractors feel his violence is unwarranted and excessive; Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 encapsulate their criticisms perfectly. In those films, a pregnant bride’s wedding party is brutally murdered by a hit squad and she is left for dead. This is until she awakens from a coma and hunts them down in “a roaring rampage of revenge.”

While I admit that Kill Bill is incredibly entertaining, it lacks the substance of his more socially relevant genre films like Inglorious Basterds (2009), Django Unchained (2012) and most recently, The Hateful Eight. In adding a historical element to his films in recent years, Tarantino has been able to transcend the stigma of a grindhouse fanboy who got a lucky break. Placing violence in its proper historical context has allowed QT to  become a political filmmaker. The Hateful Eight deals with a country during a time when tensions were at a breaking point, post-Civil War.

There are really no good guys in The Hateful Eight, which might be a hard pill for a mainstream audience to swallow. Everyone’s stories and actions show how deep the river of animosity flows. However, if you can get past the harsh language and intensely violent third act, TH8 features some of the best acting of 2015. Furthermore, If you’re a Samuel L. Jackson fan, his performance as Union General Marquis Warren is one for the history books.

I would recommend The Hateful Eight for its acting and socio-political subtext. There is a lot more going on here than the yelling of epithets and gunslingers blowing each other apart. America has blood on its hands, and I think it has finally found an filmmaker/artist who can show us how repulsive racism, sexism and xenophobia really are.

 

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