The Hateful Eight Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth
  • Director: Quentin Tarantino
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R                                  
  • Studio: The Weinstein Company
  • Release Date: March 29, 2016
  • Run Time: 168 minutes


    Combining (and often enhancing) the social commentary and western setting of Django Unchained with the simple story structure and collection of violent character types found in Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight seems an accurate composite of Quentin Tarantino’s entire filmography, from beginning to present. In terms of violence, The Hateful Eight continues the progression of extreme and exaggerated practical effects, which seems to have started in the universe of Kill Bill with spurting blood. At the same time, the amount of violence is often surprisingly restrained; when your cast of characters is limited by remote location, each death is that much more significant. It is the simplicity of this plot, the restraint in storytelling that it demands, which ultimately allows Tarantino to create one of his greatest cinematic achievements.


            If it was not clear from the Sergio Leone references in Inglourious Basterds (tagline: Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France…), Django Unchained solidly transitioned Tarantino into making films influenced by the Western genre, rather than the Crime genre he had previously been known to sample from. While Inglourious Basterds was a war film that merely alluded to them and Django Unchained was Blaxploitation with a western setting, The Hateful Eight is a Western with an Agatha Christie style mystery at the center of the narrative. In particular, the richly energetic score from legendary composer Ennio Morricone and the scope of Robert Richardson’s wide-angle 70mm photography of the beautifully harsh landscapes create a more sincerely nostalgic approach to the western genre.


            Set some time after the Civil War, The Hateful Eight shows us a country full of men who must find some way to put to use the skills of violence they perfected during wartime. Even more importantly, the bloody events taking place in a remote stagecoach stopover have allegorical significance for a country still healing from civil war. Through the course of the tense and bloody conflict in the film, there is a subtle start to healing between two characters that were on opposite sides during the war. Spike Lee may have protested this film for its blunt use of racial slurs, but ultimately this is a film about the symbolic healing of a country divided. The healing just happens to occur within the structure of a blood-soaked murder mystery.


            The film opens in the wide open wilderness of Wyoming, where John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is on a journey to bring a prisoner named Daisy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in for hanging when he comes across fellow bounty hunter, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). Forced by the blizzard into a stop along the way, the two bounty hunters find themselves trapped in a single-room cabin with a handful of men, most of which appear to be lying about one thing or another. Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) is a former southern renegade claiming to be the new sheriff in the town where Daisy is meant to hang, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) insists that he is the hangman, while cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) insists that he is on his way home for Christmas. Rounding out the eight from the title is the Mexican man working at the stopover named Bob (Demian Bichir) and former Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), though the numbers begin to dwindle after the first death occurs.


            Although it is true that The Hateful Eight has some of the exaggerated violence that Tarantino has reveled in recently, even more predominant is the signature style of dialogue he has carried through all of his films. Much of the film simply relies on two characters bantering back and forth with witty repartee as the only source of entertainment between expansive outdoor shots seasoned further with Morricone’s majestic score. Somehow a three-hour film taking place in mostly one location shouldn’t be this exciting, and it likely wouldn’t have been in the hands of most other directors. Tarantino has announced that he will only make two more films before retiring from directing, which is a shame considering the ways that he has just recently begun to mature as a filmmaker.


            The Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD and Digital HD copy of the film, though it is the basic theatrical cut alone. I’m sure they will break down and release the extended Roadshow cut at some point, but for now this will have to do. The special features are also surprisingly sparse, with only two featurettes. The first is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette, whereas the second extra is dedicated to detailed information about the 70mm filming and screening process, including the lens which hadn’t been used in decades. Samuel L. Jackson hosts this featurette with his usual enthusiasm.   


    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 10/10

    Historical Significance:  9.5/10

    Special Features: 7/10

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