“Hateful Eight” Roadshow is an oil painting of wonder and blood
In regards to my recent experience with Quentin Tarantino’s latest Western, “The Hateful Eight,” I didn’t come back from seeing just a movie. I came back from seeing an experience. Something that I will never see again in my lifetime unless another tries to duplicate it. So I come before saying that I didn’t just see one of the best movies this year but present to you a review of one of the best “film” and theater experiences I have ever witnessed in my life. Like Haley’s Comet flying above our heads in one night, this is the kind of experience that is worth seeing for the dire hard cinema fans. Just because you go to the movies, doesn’t mean you get a great movie going experience. The latest offering from the controversial yet engaging film fan brings to the table what he feels should be the ultimate theater experience. And sadly, I doubt other studios will follow suit. But rest assured I can’t be more thankful to witness a spectacle of amazing cinematography and gritty bloodshed.
Set during a post Civil War, Kurt Russel plays a bounty hunter named John Ruth who sets his sights on going to the little town of Red Rock to turn in an outlaw for reward money. The little darling Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is set to be hanged but pulls a feisty personality even if she does get hit for it. Along the journey in a six horse stagecoach, they run into the town’s soon to be new sherif Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) an African American Major named Marquis Warren (the always warm-welcomed Samuel L. Jackson). Both characters set their sights on going to the small town as the reluctant John has them on board.
This descends into a long sequence of these four despicable people playing of each other while the coach rider (James Parks) carries on through the snow. As they talk and exchange some dark dialogue expressing their personalities, we feel a part of this as the carriage rocks back and forth and a slew of racist commentary is present. This sets the tone for the rest of movie as we know we can’t trust these people. We merely watch them knowing they can’t stand each other’s guts and wonder how much they can stomach each other. Some may consider this portion of “Hateful Eight” long but I feel it adds to the cold and harsh environment. Trust the last thing you would expect from a racist sheriff, a Major with tall tales and a bounty hunter that holds no shame in beating up a defenseless woman with a criminal record.
With a powerful blizzard on the march, the four have no choice but to see refuge in a stagecoach lodge placed in the middle of nowhere. As they make an uncomfortable stay for the night, they have to deal with a British hangman with the personality of a snake oil salesman (Tim Roth), a bigot Confederate General (Bruce Dern) that is selfish, a shy cowboy (Michael Madsen) and a Mexican (Demian Bichir) that acts like the butler of the place. As the snow piles on, suspicion raises among the group as they start to wonder how “welcoming” these people are. And as expected, it all descends into traditional Tarantino fair with extremely graphic violence and some big twists that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
“Hateful Eight” is a straight to the core and nearly flawless film with engaging storytelling and breathtaking cinematography. The whole narrative has a throwback feel to not just Westerns but also classic mysteries and traditional “old dark house” features where people would gather at a single place and start to either back-stab each other or show their true dark nature. We get instead is a combination of many things as one starts to suspect the other and the once the body count increases in Act II, the tension raises as we start to wonder who will be left standing.
The only element I can think off that might turn viewers off is not just the usual overabundance of gore (as heads explode and some get badly gunned down), but the racial tension along with some mistreatment towards the female lead. I didn’t mind this much seeing this is meant to be a true gitty Western along the lines of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and the 2010 remake of True Grit. There are no limits in preserving how harsh and cruel the past was. To be fair, the racism has a point of existing for one character arch that works very well. Just keep in mind nothing is held back and those sensitive might be turned off.
As for the rest of “Hateful Eight,” I can’t praise this movie enough. I love the characters and desolate location. I like the idea and concept of pitting these terrible people that all have a connection to each other. They don’t get along well and it makes the interaction all the more engaging. You don’t know if one will be successfully teamed up with another or if betrayal is on the horizon. Its well acted, as Kurt Russel sprouts a John Wayne-ish accent that gives nostalgic flair, beautifully shot on 70mm film and hands down the best of the year.
Now something I must point out is that if you plan on seeing “Hateful Eight,” I highly recommend viewing this the way Tarantino meant it to be. Photographed on actual film and in Ultra Panavision 70, Tarantino went to great lengths to have this presented on theaters with 70mm projectors. As a result, nearly 100 theaters nationwide are given a special “roadshow” presentation of the movie that hasn’t been done in over fifty years. For those too young, a “roadshow presentation” would be a gala showing of the movie where viewers would dress up like they were attending a Broadway play and be giving a free souvenir program. The presentation would be complete with an opening overture, a 10 or 15 minute Intermission and a brief piece of music before the beginning of the second act. Not only that but even certain scenes that would be included in this version only which would later be removed for its general release.
I was able to attend a screening of the 70mm, 3 hour Roadshow cut in Somerville Theater near the Boston district and for that one hour drive, it was worth it. I can’t even begin to explain how incredible it was. The inside of the theater was basic yet felt like an old fashioned theater. The ticket price was reasonable seeing a $12 matinee price for a 70mm presentation is not that bad considering the majestic treatment. And probably the first and only snack bar I have attended that has handmade ice cream. Let me tell you, two scoops of peppermint ice cream was perfect to have once the Intermission was over. But most importantly the care and craftsmanship really shinned here with the auditorium seating giving you that nostalgic feel of what previous moviegoers were experiencing decades ago.
On top of that, the film presentation of “Hateful Eight” is the true star here. I can’t tell you how much I have missed seeing traditional film being projected onto a large cinema screen. Dare I say the lighting from the projector almost gives this warmth glow for scenes in the small lodge as small drops of sunlight pour in. Even texture and detail on faces and clothing really pop at you in a near 3D presentation. In fact, the presentation almost makes you feel like you are part of the movie. When Marquis points his gun out to the camera, we feel the tension of his hand on the trigger as if he was interrogating us. Even outdoor scenes as the carriage trots in the snow and wide shots of the lodge work well with every shot filled with characters and things that literally swallows us into each frame. Compared to digital film which looks flat, the film presentation gives more depth and perception as if we are seeing an oil painting come to life.
The only nitpick I do have is the lack of parking save for some coin meter spots and a “private property” lot. Unless there was a parking lot close by and it was missed, I can safely say there were a few open spots with a coin meter so all was not a loss aside from some quarters. But looking pass the one hour trip down and the lack of solid parking, it was all worth it just for this incredible experience. If you live close to a theater exhibiting the “Roadshow Cut,” chances are you might want to catch it while you still can. Or at least check to see if your local theater is presenting this 70mm film version. If you have no availability to this version, the only elements missing in the General Release Cut (according to some reports) is the Overture, Intermission, a special souvenir booklet, six minutes of scenes Tarantino deemed would be better viewed in 70mm film and the ultimate experience of a lifetime. Despite what version you see, “Hateful Eight” is a great way to end 2015 with an explosive and gory bang.
Posted on December 29, 2015, in In Theaters (Sort of) and tagged 2015, 70mm, Blood, Boston, Broadway, Bruce Dern, Cinerama, Demian Bichir, film, Gore, In Theaters, Intermission, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, overture, Quentin Tarantino, Roadshow Cut, Samuel Jackson, Somerville, Somerville Theater, Special Roadshow Engagement, The Hateful Eight, Tim Roth, Ultra Panavision 70, Violent, Walton Goggins, Western. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.