The Hateful Eight: A Review
The Hateful Eight is a beautifully sculpted picture from one of the greatest, living directors in cinema.
As The Hateful Eight begins, an instantly recognisable title card informs its audience that this is ‘The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino.’ This bold way of crediting himself adds a high degree of suggested importance to any project, something that not a lot of directors can do, but of course, Tarantino is unlike most directors. By the time this credit style was first employed (Kill Bill), he had more than earned the right to do so. The credit attached to The Hateful Eight also reminds hard-core Tarantino fans that he only plans to make two more films. Whilst this may be saddening in many respects, it is equally as exciting, as this suggests Tarantino is in his absolute prime and while The Hateful Eight may not be his best ever picture, everything about this film exudes that.
Set at an undetermined time after the American Civil War, The Hateful Eight is the story of eight strangers who seek refuge from a raging blizzard in a stagecoach stopover named Minnie’s Haberdashery. The first of the eight that are introduced are Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a former Union soldier. Stranded after his horse dies whilst transporting three bounties to a town called Red Rock, Warren is fortunately picked up by the stagecoach of John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting a bounty of his own. Ruth’s prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is chained to his wrist. Along the road to the town, they pick up stranded Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a former Confederate soldier who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock on his way to be inaugurated.
Tarantino’s script boils with tension and distrust with this dynamic being established from the outset, ensuring that soon the audience is trained to question everything the characters say. The performances of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins are extremely strong, with this, ultimately, saving the initial part of the film from dragging. In addition, in this section, the audience is treated to a number of wonderful landscape shots where Tarantino fully utilises the beauty of the 70mm film format in which he chose to use for this film.
The Hateful Eight is a stunningly gorgeous film, with nearly every shot expertly crafted and framed to perfection.
Similarly to Kill Bill, The Hateful Eight is split into chapters (six in total), which is fortunate as clocking in at 187 minutes, this nicely prevents the viewer from becoming too restless. It is restlessness though that, to a certain extent, Tarantino strives to achieve, slowly brewing tension exactly in the vein of Sergio Leone, an often-noted influence of his. This tension begins to ramp up further as we reach Minnie’s Haberdashery and are introduced to the other half of the eight: Bob (Demián Bichir), a Mexican, who says he has been left in charge of the place while Minnie is away, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a cowboy and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), a former Confederate General.
From this point, The Hateful Eight appears, almost as a play, with the majority of the action being confined to one room with lengthy and often riveting dialogue. Kurt Russell, fantastically commanders the situation as his character of Ruth is suspicious of everyone in the room. There are heavy shades of Reservoir Dogs in this film, especially in terms of the situation, but also in the structure itself.
Tarantino holds back on his trademark ultra-violent tendencies for near to two hours. However, through the use of a highly inflammatory story about the humiliation and torture of General Sandy Smithers’ son, which is delivered perfectly by Jackson – the audience begins to experience an escalation of horrifically gory violence, which is in many ways, more severe than anything else in Tarantino’s career.
For Tarantino fans, The Hateful Eight is a must-see, especially in regards to the last hour of the film, with it being a ridiculous thrill ride of surprises and twists that are guaranteed to leave the audience reeling.