Released: December 25, 2015 (limited release, 70mm Roadshow version), December 30, 2015 (wide digital release version)
Story: It’s a short time after The American Civil War, and nine people are trapped in a small, stage coach stop as a horrible, Wyoming blizzard rages on outside. Our characters: Major Marquis Warren (played by Samuel L. Jackson), a former slave and union solider turned bounty hunter who wants to get some dead bounties to the nearby town of Red Rock; John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known for taking in bounties alive so they can be hung; Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a criminal and murderer who is Ruth’s current high paying bounty that he’s trying to get to Red Rock; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a racist former Confederate who claims to be trying to get to Red Rock so he can be appointed the new sheriff; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), an English hangman who needs to get to Red Rock so he can hang Daisy when/if she is found guilty; Bob (Demián Bichir), a mysterious Mexican looking over the stagecoach stop while the owners are away; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a quiet cowboy trying to get to his mother’s place just outside of Red Rock for Christmas; and Sanford “Sandy” Smithers (Bruce Dern), a former Confederate general staying at the stagecoach stop. There’s also O.B. Jackson (James Parks), the coach driver trying to get Ruth and Daisy to Red Rock. Shortly after arriving, Warren suspects something isn’t right at the inn, which he has stayed at before. Suspicion grows between the group when Ruth suspects one or more of the other tenants is actually an ally of Daisy determined to free her. Warren, Ruth, and Jackson must keep their eyes open if they hope to survive the few days they are trapped at the inn and get their bounties to Red Rock.
Thoughts: The Hateful Eight was big on my holiday viewing list. I was a big fan of Django Unchained (2012), and was excited to see Tarantino dip his hat back into the western genre. The idea of the movie taking place primarily in one location with a group of people from different walks of life also intrigued me. I am sad to report the movie fell far below my expectations. It wasn’t awful, but the trademark Tarantino dialogue wasn’t as interesting and engaging as it is usually. Even when things start moving along after the first-half – which focuses primarily on character, story, and tension building – the film failed to grip me and get me as invested as Django had three years ago. I also felt like I didn’t get to know half of the characters very well, which is saying something when the film features so much dialogue and is three hours long. We see a fair amount of the Jackson, Russell, and Goggins characters, but Leigh (who barely has anything to do beyond the occasional line/joke), Bichir, Roth, Madsen, and Dern are extremely underutilized. I caught the film over the weekend at a local theater hosting the 70mm roadshow version. I can’t say the film took true advantage of 70mm and gave me a unique experience. I can’t say it was worth the $18 I spent on the ticket. I can say the movie was an interesting experiment, even if Tarantino fell short of his ultimate goal.