User Rating: 78%
So, the question is what will one expect from the film? Well, I can say that it is what you would generally expect from a Tarantino film – gratuitous and rather shocking violence, some rather interesting twists, and numerous rather ordinary conversations which have become a hallmark of Tarantino films. Okay, you don’t get a scene like the one in Inglorious Basterds where they play celebrity heads with a Nazi officer, however in a lot of cases these rather ordinary, and quite boring, scenes work well to build up the tension. You can also expect the film to be divided into chapters – another hallmark of Tarantino’s films. Pretty much all of Hollywood has films as being one continuous story, whereas Tarantino will divide his films into chapters, a useful technique since he does have a habit of jumping back in time to explain something that he doesn’t want us to know at the beginning.Anyway, as I am apt to do, here is the trailer:
The Idea of the Western
The main idea is that the west was little more than a barbarous wilderness that was sparsely populated and as such criminals could flee out there to be beyond the reach of the law. The military or the police force did not have a huge presence out there, so these criminals could literally do what they like without fear of retribution. Mind you, this was not always the case as the image of this period is one that was ruled by the gun, and justice was determined by the mob. Even if a town had a sheriff, there was not necessarily any formal judicial system where criminals could be tried. Thus what we have with the classic western is this idea of order being brought to a realm of chaos, and the civilising influence slowly spreading over the west, whether it be going after outlaws, for fighting against Native American insurgencies.
Blizzard in the Wilderness
The thing is that in the Hateful Eight we really know very little about who these characters are. In fact the only characters we actually know for certain is John Ruth and Daisy Domague. We know that Ruth is a bounty hunter and that Daisy is a criminal that is being brought to Red Rock to face justice. Sure, we think we know about Major Warren, but that is only because Ruth indicates at the beginning of the film that they are old acquaintances.
Warren also adds credence to this belief with the existence of the Lincoln Letter. This is a letter that was purportedly written by Abraham Lincoln to Major Warren, and was a part of a chain of correspondence between the two. However it’s existence only serves to add authenticity to his story, and respectability to his character. This changes when we meet Chris Mannix, who is also quite familiar with Warren, and slowly we begin to see him dismantling his story to a point where he points out that the Lincoln Letter is nothing more than a forgery. All of the sudden this respectable character becomes nothing more than a stranger.
However we are also left in the dark with Chris Mannix. We know of his background due to the story of his father, however we are never quite sure whether he is really a sheriff or not. He has accepted the role, but he doesn’t have any proof. In fact we sort of wonder why it is that he is found out in the middle of the wilderness with no horse and begging for a lift. Nobody has been to Red Rock, and nobody can confirm his story, yet we must accept it.
The same is the case with Warren. We are told a story of how he confronted the General’s Son, and then brutally tortured him by making him walk naked through the snow until he could simply walk no more. Yet we are left to wonder whether this story is true or not, namely because we are told that the Lincoln Letter is a lie and as such his testimony becomes suspect. However Tarantino is tricky in this part through the use of a cut scene. We actually see the story being played out before our eyes, and are almost forced to believe that Warren is telling the truth, even though there is serious doubt as to its authenticity. The question then arises: does the general react because of the story, or simply because he finally took Warren’s bait.
In fact everybody in the film has a story, and we are almost inclined to take these stories at face value. The short man claims to be an executioner, and is instantly believed. The Mexican we accept as one of Minnie’s servants, which leaves us with the mysterious letter writer, who we all end up suspecting. However it is only when Warren begins to deconstruct the Mexican’s story that we are then made privy to the truth behind what is actually going on. However, as with a lot of Tarantino’s films, there are still further twists to unravel, and further lies to be exposed.
A Bloody End
I was going to finish off talking about the tension that arises in the film, particularly when you have eight people all trapped in a building who either don’t like, or don’t trust, each other, however instead I will simply wrap it up by considering the final act. Basically everybody dies, or at least it seems that all die. Sure, the film closes with Mannix reading the Lincoln letter out loud after being handed it by Warren, but both of them are bloody, beaten, and unless they get some medical attention they are unlikely to survive the night. Well, guess what, they are miles from nowhere stuck in a hut full of dead people in the middle of a blizzard – I suspect the writing is pretty much on the wall with this one.
Once again, we see Tarantino turn the concept of the western on its head, in a similar way that he has done with many of his other films. They are not typical Hollywood films – they are Tarantino films. Sure, not every one of his films has an ending where everybody dies – in fact a lot of the films the heroes win, as was the case here, but what we have here is generally what one refers to as a pyrrhic victory – sure, they got the bad guys but as what cost?
So, where we have the idea of the Western as being the strangers bringing civilisation, law, and order to an untamed land, we have Tarantino twisting this idea around to demonstrate that while the bad guys are killed, and the good guys victorious, in the end neither side has won and the land remains as wild and as untamed as it ever was.