The Hateful Eight is a true Quentin Tarantino treasure, complete with a plethora of blood splatters, fun performances, sparkling dialogue, and picturesque visuals.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight follows a troupe of despicable, monstrous outlaws on a mission from hell. It kicks off with a severe blizzard, set to bowl over bounty hunter John Ruth’s (Kurt Russell) chances of sending his captive/target, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to the gallows on time. Picking up fellow gunslingers Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) on the road, the group takes shelter in Minnie’s Haberdashery overnight. However, Warren soon suspects fellow inhabitants Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) of sinister intentions.
The Hateful Eight suffered several setbacks over its three-year development stage. After the script leaked back in early 2014, Tarantino came close to cancelling the project. Instead, the rebellious filmmaker took the idea, developed new ideas, and came roaring back. Like with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight lets Tarantino off the leash. His latest pays homage to cinema’s heyday, defined by the original cut featuring an overture and intermission. At a whopping 167 minutes, however, the theatrical version still shows off Tarantino’s inescapable vision.
Going out of his way to shoot in 70mm Panavision, separate the story into six chapters, and hire Ennio Morricone to compose the filmmaker’s first orchestral score, it’s hard to ignore Tarantino’s influence over The Hateful Eight. Like preceding projects, the filmmaker’s latest paints a shocking, unique take on a violent era of history. Beyond the spectacular visuals, this western-drama discusses themes relevant to the past, present, and future. Throughout the first half, in particular, the film’s focus on post-Civil War racial tensions mirror Tarantino’s thoughts on today’s socio-political climate. Peppered throughout, full-length conversations – between Union (Democratic) and Confederate (Republican) characters – raise tensions within the story’s small, claustrophobic settings.
Constructed, and directed, similarly to a stage play, the film delivers a subdued approach to its Agatha Christie-style mystery plot. The drama, like our characters, relies primarily on the confines of Ruth’s stagecoach and Minnie’s Haberdashery. Thanks to Tarantino’s searing dialogue and purposeful direction, the tension builds unconscionably in the second and third acts. Despite the limited settings, Tarantino’s style, aided by Robert Richardson’s cinematography and Fred Raskin’s editing, makes every frame feel wholly cinematic. However, in the second half, the film trades dialogue for unnecessary slo-mo, screams, and blood splatters.
The film’s cast of half-forgotten character-actors makes the most of the opportunity. Jackson caps off a stellar 2015 after Age of Ultron and Spike Lee hit Chiraq. As Tarantino’s muse, Jackson provides a familiar, but worthwhile performance as the lead/critical detective figure. Russell returns to the big screen with style, still holding onto his rugged good looks and charismatic swagger. Roth and Bachir, in particular, whistle and wheeze through over-the-top, caricaturish performances. Bit players Madsen and Dern embellish their disgusting character types. Most importantly, Leigh and Goggins deliver dynamic, standout performances as the least trustworthy two of the bunch.
The Hateful Eight is a gleeful concoction of the beginning (Reservoir Dogs), middle (Kill Bill), and climax of Tarantino’s cinema career. The auteur’s vision may be overwhelming, but his writing and direction make all the right moves.
The Hateful Eight is available in Australian cinemas from January 21st
Images courtesy of Roadshow Films