“The Hateful Eight”
If you want a short synopsis of Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” imagine that he did a sequel to “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), this time placing it in Wyoming immediately after the Civil War. Nobody, and I mean nobody, brings violence to the big screen like Tarantino, yet he leaves you repeatedly laughing as you watch men die in a cinematic bloodbath that lasts close to three hours.
The film centers around bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) bringing his prisoner, Daisy Domergue, (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into an old outpost somewhere in Wyoming as they dodge a massive blizzard. They are joined by a collection of sinister characters with unknown intentions, and the only thing you know is that none of them will die peacefully.
Strangely, the relationship between Ruth and Domergue resembles a comedy team that looks like a terribly sadistic version of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. While Ruth leaves her face a bloody mess after constant assaults with his elbow as he leads her to a hanging, she simply spits out blood and cackles.
The relationship between our characters leaves you fascinated and repulsed. Samuel L. Jackson dominates this film, here playing a twisted Civil War veteran who is hauling three dead bodies to a nearby town to obtain a reward. His character resembles his memorable role as Jules Winnfield in Tarantino’s epic film “Pulp Fiction” (1994), and he is as hysterical as seen in Spike Lee’s recent “Chi Raq” and last year’s “Kingsmen: The Secret Service.” In addition, the racial slurs hurled at him soon become a force of nature.
Without giving anything away, you soon begin to wonder if the gentlemen awaiting the arrival of Ruth are strangers or a team with a hidden agenda. As noted, no one dies peacefully, and the performances of Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Channing Tatum and Michael Madsen leave you frequently captivated as you simultaneously cover your eyes to dodge unimaginable deaths.
Many of my friends cannot tolerate Tarantino’s films because of his focus on violence. While I understand that, he remains an artist who can bring to the screen a pictorial display of viciousness that leaves you gasping with a feeling of disgusted wonder.
It may sound lamentable, but I find myself attracted to Tarantino’s gift for taking the audience on a boat trip across the River Styx to explore the dark corners of hell.
Though director Alejandro Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” has been nominated for a best picture Oscar, a good friend of mine provided the best review: “Think of Quentin Tarantino remaking ‘Jeremiah Johnson’” (1972). While its length of 2 hours and 36 minutes becomes a bit difficult to endure at times, it is a stunning survivalist film that needs to be seen.
Before going further I must confess that I have read a great deal about fur trappers and the exploration of the American West between Lewis and Clark’s adventures in 1803-1805 and the Civil War. If you are remotely interested, read the Pulitzer Prize-winning books by William H. Goetzmann entitled “Exploration & Empire” and Bernard DeVoto’s “The Year of Decision: 1846.”
Iñárritu’s film draws its strength from the simple fact that it is based on a true story involving a group of trappers in the 1820s. Stalked by some angry Native Americans, the boys were confronted with a terrible dilemma when their guide, Hugh Glass, was viciously mauled by a grizzly bear and thought to be dying. Two companions who were supposed to bury him when he died left him barely alive in a partially filled grave as they fled for their lives. Against all conceivable odds, Glass was able to survive, and this incredible tale gives the film a magnetic force even if you find it difficult to endure its length.
However, let me say without qualification that Leonardo DiCaprio should win his first Oscar given his stunning portrayal of Glass. Nearly ripped apart by the attacking grizzly, you can’t help but admire Glass’ courage and tenacity. Additionally, DiCaprio’s performance is all the more powerful given the fact that he had to film his role in bone-chilling weather, deep snow and icy rivers.
In a sense, the film reminds me of the story that Lauren Bacall told in her autobiography where she described the weeks spent with her husband, Humphrey Bogart, and Katharine Hepburn while they filmed “The African Queen” (1951) in central Africa. Neither of these movies used a Hollywood sound stage for its critical scenes, and both become unforgettable for that reason alone.
Tom Hardy has also received an Oscar nomination for his role as John Fitzgerald, the villain who abandoned Glass to an expected death. Hardy is again magnificent, and I know of no actor in the history of film that has appeared in two films (this and “Mad Max: Fury Road”) that received the most Oscar nominations in a given year.
While there will be many who will not be drawn to this film, it should win an Oscar for Emmanuel Lubezki’s incredible cinematography. The scenery is so captivating that it frequently causes you to forget the limited dialogue, and it remains difficult to describe with any meaning. Let me just say that there are moments when you feel as frostbitten as DiCaprio.
Finally, I should note that the young trapper who followed Fitzgerald’s lead in abandoning Glass was a guy named Bridger. Glass ended up forgiving Bridger (Will Poulter) because he was both misled and so young at the time. It is worth remembering that Jim Bridger went on to become one of the most famous trappers and explorers in the history of the American West.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.