I’ve always loved Tarantino’s films growing up – Reservoir Dogs was one of the very first 18-rated movies I ever watched, and today it’s still one of my favourites. Pulp Fiction is also incredibly high up there, as again it had a massive impact on how I view film, and the sorts of films I enjoy watching today.
It’s immediately clear to me that The Hateful Eight is one of Tarantino’s – something a lot of other directors don’t quite have with their own films. Set as a Western, we start off with bounty-hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is transporting three bodies on foot as his horse has died trying to escape the fast-approaching blizzard. He hitches a ride with John Ruth (Kurt Russell), coincidentally another well-known bounty hunter, who is transporting his captive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her death (and his financial gain). Along the way they end up rescuing Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins, who you my recognise from ‘Justified’ as annoyingly-likeable antagonist Boyd), a man who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, and the three of them, along with their coach driver O.B. (James Parks), end up staying the night at Minnie’s Haberdashery to avoid getting caught in the storm.
There’s more though – the group find themselves sharing this small space with Bob (Demián Bichir), Mexican in charge, Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) who’s just a quiet cowboy wanting to spend Christmas with his mother, Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), a hangman, and Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), an older man who used to be a Confederate general. The tensions from the stagecoach carry on as no one seems to trust anyone else. The film is nearly three hours long – not unusual for Tarantino – and contains some pretty complex character development. There is an extensive plot, but the short amount of time and space makes it feel like we’re watched a series of detailed conversations. The story is incredibly intricate, and so this isn’t a simple movie to watch just when you’re bored – you really need to be concentrating or else you won’t know what the hell is going on.
Tarantino uses his classic blend of humour and tension to create some really unsettling scenes. He also goes for the extra-long scenes and disturbing music, which means you’re constantly on edge waiting for something terrible to happen – once it finally does happen it really takes you by surprise. There’s such a weird combination of characters, and so the tone keeps changing, which again is really effective. This is all Tarantino’s signature style, and it all still works so well. Unfortunately, Tarantino set the bar really high for himself in the ‘90s, and this one just isn’t the films mentioned previously. There’s a massive build-up for over two hours, yet the ending just isn’t quite as climatic as we want it to be. It’s still a great ending, and it’s still really clever, but it just isn’t Reservoir Dogs. There’s definitely enough clever writing and fantastically gory violence for any fan though, and the score, written by Ennio Morricone, is beyond stunning.
What I really loved about it was that it was really a fusion genre – it’s Western the whole-way-through, but roughly half-way it suddenly turned a mystery/whodunit, as if someone had suddenly whipped out a Cluedo board. The storyline was overly complex, and I didn’t have any idea what had really gone on until the very end. Which is good, because the involvement for the viewer was so much more than your typical action/thriller film.
The structure was great, and each actor delivered a fine performance (in particular Samuel L. Jackson, who never fails to impress). It wasn’t a masterpiece, as I just can’t quite put it up there with Tarantino’s greats, but it’s still a damn good film.
I give The Hateful Eight a 4/5.
The Hateful Eight at CeX
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