Sometime in January, Quentin Tarantino’s new screenplay The Hateful Eight was leaked online. Tarantino’s temper, which rivals that of many of his vengeful protagonists, was aimed at Gawker, a site that provided links to the script, encouraging readers to download it with the headline “Here is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino The Hateful Eight script.”
Tarantino released a statement reeking of venom and rage, announced a lawsuit against Gawker, and said that he will be shelving The Hateful Eight project indefinitely.
Many have speculated whether this outburst was a publicity stunt, or if Tarantino might be using it as an excuse to back out of a project he’s lost passion for.
While only Tarantino knows the answers to these questions, a rumour has recently surfaced that the temperamental director has since calmed down and that the movie might be happening after all.
The question is: should this be Tarantino’s next film? Let’s take a look at the script and find out …
As a preamble, it must be stated that the following is based on a screenplay that is only in its first draft, and will probably be changed repeatedly before the final product.
The Hateful Eight would be Tarantino’s second foray into the Wild West, after the hugely successful Django Unchained.
The story takes place almost entirely in one setting and follows the exploits of John Ruth, a bounty hunter delivering a particularly lucrative cargo to the authorities in the town of Red Rock.
The script is a whopping 146 pages (most Hollywood scripts range between 90 to 120 pages) and all of your favorite Tarantino trademarks are here: long winded yet well-crafted dialogue, tense buildups leading up to bloody showdowns and exposition flashbacks that tell the gruesome backstories of some of these hateful characters.
Due to a blizzard heading their way, Ruth and his prized bounty, Lady Domergue, need to spend the night in “Minnie’s Haberdashery”, sharing it with a handful of eccentric travelers wearing out the storm. The guests at this inn include a decorated Southern general, a wily black bounty hunter and a well-groomed Englishman who seems excessively polite.
What starts as a pleasant pit stop where weary travelers share stories over mugs of coffee, bowls of stew and a nice warm fire, quickly spirals out of control leading to death and destruction.
Not all in this tavern are who they claim to be, and John Ruth must uncover the imposter if he hopes to survive the night.
Unlike Tarantino’s recent films, this is not a revenge fantasy and the story is much narrower in scope. Tarantino is going back to basics with a storyline that is similar to his debut film, Reservoir Dogs: one location, a handful of characters that each have their own dark secrets and of course a body count that rises consistently until the story’s epic conclusion.
Alfred Hitchcock, the legendary director, had a famous example he used for teaching suspense — simply put, if two characters are sitting at a table and talking, no matter what the subject of their discussion, the scene will be boring. But if two characters are sitting at a table talking, and the audience knows that there’s a bomb under the table that’s about to go off, the scene becomes infinitely more engaging. Suddenly we’re at the edge of our seats listening to these characters with rapt attentiveness, knowing that any second now, disaster will strike.
When you read a script written by Tarantino, a man made famous for his love of stylized bloodshed, every scene has an inherent “bomb under the table.” While many scenes in The Hateful Eight depict long conversations between characters, the shadow of Tarantino looms over them, constantly reminding us that these clever jabs and funny anecdotes can quickly turn into a violent bloodbath.
So is the story any good? Absolutely. Tarantino is one of the most exciting storytellers of our time and this script does not disappoint. For a first draft it is borderline incredible, but when you’re one of the greatest filmmakers alive, choosing your projects is paramount.
While The Hateful Eight could be fun as hell as a movie, it would not elevate Tarantino as a filmmaker. It would not be a challenge for him and it would not bring anything new to his audiences.
Perhaps the script leaking was a blessing in disguise — Tarantino’s efforts might be better served on a different project that reinvents his filmmaking and pushes his boundaries, as opposed to this small Western tale.