In THE HATEFUL EIGHT, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…
As you may guess, Samuel L. Jackson is brightest star, but his presence is the foundation of the other fantastic performances that bring together The Hateful Eight. With such a history behind the cast, it’s fun to hear Kurt Russell talk about his scene with Michael Madsen: “Snake Plissken is challenging Mr Blonde. Holy shit!”
A rising star, Walton Goggins has been making a name for himself as a very versatile actor, with roles in Predators, and the FX shows Justified and Sons of Anarchy. He also has another western coming out this January starring opposite Scott Eastwood and Danny Glover in Diablo. He has a swagger and personability that’s striking.
The Hateful Eight has many differences from Tarantino’s previous work, but none more noticeable than the score. There are only two songs (one Apple Blossom by The White Stripes) and the rest is musical score from the legendary Ennio Morricone. I recently traveled through Nashville and picked up a copy of the soundtrack on vinyl from Third Man Records. I can’t wait to get home and check it out.
Also unlike his other films, this one has much more drama and suspense. Tarantino talks about how suspense is like a rubber band: “If I can stretch that rubber band to 25 minutes and it still holds and doesn’t snap, then it should be better. Part of that rubber band is the threat of violence hanging over the characters. Violence doesn’t even need to happen but you’re prepared for it.”
I recommend seeing the 70mm roadshow if you can. Quentin Tarantino wanted it to be “like Neil Diamond coming to town.” There’s a beautiful grittiness to film and it’s something that’s not really noticed until you switch back to digital. My biggest issue with 70mm showing is the intermission. I don’t like upsetting the flow of the story. I would prefer to continue being in the onscreen world without interruption. C’est la vie.
I love that Tarantino is creating an experience with this film. It’s being show in the format in which he shot, 70mm, and whether you’re a fan or not, you’ve got to respect his commitment to film. He’s got to a certain level of his career and he has a big studio (The Weinstein Company) backing him up. Could this lead to a resurgence of theaters showing the older format? Probably not. It’s very expensive and the theaters have to put up that cost. Even with rising ticket prices, there’s not enough to cover it. But it’s an event that won’t likely be duplicated.
Last but not least, Tarantino is not finished with westerns and would love to do a mini-series based on the Elmore Leonard novel, “Forty Lashes Less One,” based at the Yuma territorial prison. “If you’re going to call yourself a western director, you need to direct at least three.”