The Meaning of The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight was another gritty western from Director Quentin Tarantino. And in typical Tarantino fashion, it was a bloody, violent mess threaded together with captivating dialogue. Tarantino has a masterful way of making his characters sound as if they were reading from the pages of a novel. The kind of novel that you just can't put down. 

Since the film really only takes place in two locations—a stage coach and a haberdashery—it's the script that carries the weight of the film. And the film is carried for almost three hours. This is actually really impressive. Unlike Micheal Bay, Tarantino doesn't fill time with 40 minutes of explosions. However, with that kind of time commitment, and the total page count of the script, a lot of people were disappointed when the movie ended and they were left scratching their heads to find meaning. Most dramas that include such in-depth dialogue and story telling have some sort of message to communicate. Yet with The Hateful Eight, people feel like they made an investment with no return. 

To avoid that same angry response to this blog post, I will just get to the point. 

Perhaps the meaning of the film is found in the camaraderie between Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins).

From the beginning of the film, they were enemies. Major Warren was a black, Union officer. Mannix was a Confederate loyalist. They were born and bred as enemies. Throughout the film, they are in obvious contention with one another. Mannix even spends time trying to turn the others against Major Warren. First, he alerts the old Confederate General (Bruce Dern) about the identity of Major Warren, effectively causing conflict. You know how that played out. Then he exposes the Lincoln letter as counterfeit. This compromised the integrity of Major Warren and destroyed the trust that John Ruth (Kurt Russell) may have had in him. Mannix is actually a brilliant saboteur. 

This haberdashery was populated with the passengers of two stage coaches. One coach carried criminals; the other carried law men. So despite their past and present conflicts, Warren and Mannix were on the same side of the law; one a bounty hunter, the other a sheriff. When they were faced with criminals threatening their lives, they quickly worked together in the interest of self preservation. They were unified by a common enemy.

In the end, they enacted their own form of justice to do right by John Ruth, “The Hangman.” They strung up Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and brought an end to the whole violent story. As they laid there, bleeding out, not reaching for bandages, the two enemies were bonded together by their commitment to justice. They knew the distinction between right and wrong, and understood they were on the same side. They were cut from the same cloth despite having grown up in opposing sides of the nation. 

The Hateful Eight is a story about putting your differences aside to do the right thing. In this case, "the right thing" was a form of grim, western justice. 

Or… everyone was just hateful and there was no moral.


Author: Tyler Hanns