Published on June 2nd, 2016 | by Chris O'Connor
The Hateful Eight Blu-ray Review
Summary: Tarantino takes the western into the deep freeze by way of schlock horror violence.
Tarantino is a distinctive director… hell he’s a distinctive person. I think most people know of his origins in a video store… absorbing all the movies he could, then finally getting his chance to make his own movie and wowing everyone with Reservoir Dogs. Each successive film seemed to show a level of growth, showing new techniques he put his own spin on. The Hateful Eight is (as the marketing proudly states) Tarantino’s Eighth movie and it’s not just the directing style that has evolved here, it’s the filming. Well touted as reviving (at least for this one film) the 70mm film format, with the Hateful Eight Tarantino creates a film for lovers of the format and to that end it really does need to be viewed on the biggest screen you can source. But I will get back to the 70mm glory later.
The film revolves around a wanted criminal being transported to Red Rock to hang for her crimes, the bounty hunter attempting to take her in comes across two separate would be fellow passengers as a blizzard approaches. As the storm grows more fierce the group must stop for shelter and end up at Minnie’s Haberdashery where they don’t encounter Minnie but rather four strangers. The blizzard continues outside as the tension builds as the various characters try and read the others they are stuck in the cabin with.
Not surprisingly to those who know of Tarantino’s work the cast is very familiar with regular collaborators Samuel L Jackson (in his sixth film with Tarantino), Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. Kurt Russell returns to collaborate as the very rough and rugged John Ruth a bounty hunter known as The Hangman because all his bounties always make it to the hangman to hang rather than being brought in dead (as the traditional wanted options allowed “dead or alive”). It’s not surprising that Kurt Russell has this role as apparently Quentin Tarantino’s primary influence for the film was The Thing which of course stared Russell (and was also scored by Morricone).
The film is nearly three hours long but it doesn’t feel long thanks to the clever dialogue and the enigmatic characters. Pulling from that The Thing reference, all of the characters in the cabin appear to not trust one another, some are known by reputation but their true reason for being at that particular cabin is not known. As the film unfolds it’s almost like a detective show, details are revealed and we are left to try and piece together evidence to determine who might be plotting to take the bounty. The setting is just after the Civil War and so the reputations that are known of revolve around people’s actions during the war… naturally we have representatives of the South, most notably General Sandy Smithers (played wonderfully by Bruce Dern) and we have the counter points in those from the North, most notably Major Marquis Warren (played with gusto by Samuel L Jackson). This backdrop creates an instant animosity between certain characters and adds an extra level of tension to the room beyond what is there over the question of who will end up leaving with the prisoner, Daisy Domergue (horribly well performed by Jennifer Jason Leigh).
But I need to jump back to that 70mm situation. Tarantino was adamant that the film be shot in Ultra Panavision (after seeing the chariot scene from Ben Hur for the first time in Ultra 70 mm at Panavisions offices he seemed adamant it had to be filmed this way). With that the equipment was tracked down to shoot the film in 65mm with 1.25X squeeze anamorphic lens which gives the film a 2.76:1 aspect ratio. This is why I mentioned it really needs to be viewed on the biggest screen you can find. On a standard wide screen tv you will get the black bars at the top and bottom and the stunning visuals of the film stretch out across your screen as a wonderful panorama. Quentin was so adamant (as a true film fan) that the film would need to be seen in the 70mm format that he organized a “roadshow” presentation in select cinemas, to do this the Weinstein company spent millions of dollars fitting the projection equipment and training the staff to run the projectors to be able to show the film as intended. The added benefit those who were fortunate enough to be near one of these cinemas had (and there was one locally to which Tarantino and select cast attended) is the film was released before the more common digital release and featured a longer cut of the film. There isn’t much in the way of extra material on the disc but there is a lovely little featurette on the acquiring of the 70mm camera equipment.
As to whether you should watch it or not the answer is a resounding yes, with the caveat… if you have never liked Tarantino films then there’s a reasonable chance you won’t like this (though I’d still suggest giving it a try), if you don’t like violence then perhaps you’d be best giving this a miss as it is arguably the most viscerally violent Tarantino film (with special effects supplied by the same experts as involved with The Walking Dead). But if you are a fan of cinema, of glorious visuals then this is a must see. It could even be a good excuse to finally get that bigger screen tv or better yet projector!