The Hateful Eight (2016)

An early review of The Hateful Eight slighted the film, stating that the project was nothing more than a self-indulgent, violent, long-winded rewrite of the opening scene to Inglourious Basterds.

And your problem with this is what exactly?

Make no mistake about it, The Hateful Eight is 100% pure, raw and totally uncut Tarantino. This one is for his hardcore fans who want to chew on the fat of his long jumbled up scenes. It’s for those who are eager to allow for the musicality of his witty dialogue to serenade them into a false sense of security, right before he unleashes his trademark blood lust, washing every inch of his ultra wide 70mm frame in bright dripping crimson.

Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film sees the master filmmaker, wordsmith and storyteller at his angriest and most nihilistic, but not without his rambunctious sense of humour and wit. This time out, he’s conjured up eight distinctively-written unique bastards and locked them inside an isolated cabin in Wyoming, with little more than a stew and a whole lot’a bullets to help them pass the time from the oncoming blizzard.

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It’s a continuation of his recent penchant for diving deeper into more politically-charged, historical subject matter (Nazi Germany, American Slave Trade). Set shortly after the end of the American Civil War, Tarantino’s cutting script screams loudly about America’s checkered history (past and horrifying present) with racism, misogyny, homophobia and gun violence.

Taking inspiration from John Carpenter’s The Thing, there are monsters to be found all over this mountain top. Sure there’s the wintry one that’s threatening to consume them all should the door fail, but Tarantino has avoided devising any sort of hero archetype here. Every single player in this game has their own secret history of gross behaviour and misconduct, and each of them are more than capable of performing unspeakable, barbaric acts upon one another.

Our main players are John Ruth (Kurt Russell with cinema’s most glorious moustache), Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Daisy Domergue (an unrecognisably great Jennifer Jason Leigh). Russell and Jackson both play bounty hunters attempting to make the trek to Red Rock. Once there, Ruth intends for Daisy – wanted murderer and thief – to hang by her neck until he hears it snap. But before any of that can happen, they must escape the snow storm that’s on their tail and camp out at Minnie’s Haberdashery with Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins and Demián Bichir.

Due to this being Quentin’s first murder mystery film, I can’t reveal much else about the plot, aside from how the filmmaker has decided to group his hallmarked use of chapters. The film is split into two very different acts. The first is all character development, atmosphere and setup to help establish a slow grind of suspense and tension. You know the onslaught of violence is fast approaching, but you never quite know when it’ll strike. Like any great Agatha Christie novel (also a source of inspiration for this tale), the first half allows for all the subjects to have sufficient time to introduce themselves and then allows the audience to slowly question the truth of what they’ve just said.

And then bang!

From the moment the first bullet is fired, until the moment the auditorium lights spark back on, the second act unleashes all of its bloody and hateful fury in stylish and hellacious fashion without a shred of mercy.

Returning to the simplistic staging of his earlier work (Reservoir Dogs), there’s a very clear theatricality to the film that would prove just as successful on stage as it would in a cineplex. The ensemble work here is nothing less than perfect, with each performer revelling in their opportunity to spit out delicious, meaty Tarantino dialogue. Every actor is given a distinctive voice and something to say, which is crucial considering how dependent the film is on lengthy conversation, character building and fact finding. Any of these actors could be heralded as the standout, but I must admit there’s almost nothing sweeter in all of cinema, than seeing Samuel L. Jackson chew on all of the best lines that Tarantino writes especially for him. Although Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins do steal the show in almost every single scene.

This reviewer was fortunate enough to witness the film in Ultra Panavision while the director’s roadshow toured in Australia recently and the choice to bring back the same lens technology that brought Ben Hurr to life was yet another master stroke. Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson have created a truly gorgeous looking feature that is filled with detail both intricate and grand. Even within the claustrophobic confines of the cabin, the 70mm helps to position performers with dramatic precision. There’s so much beauty to such a hate-filled story.

What a pleasure it is to hear the sweet brooding chords of Ennio Morricone once again; returning to the genre that his name became synonymous with back in the 70’s. Now, after 40 long years away from westerns, he returns with a fantastic new orchestration that is absolutely chilling and filled with strings that promote an uneasy sense of paranoia and loitering evil.  After years of sampling his music, Tarantino finally gets his very own Morricone score.

Be warned, if you’re not already converted to the sacred church of St. Quentin, ye will find nothing here to turn you. It’s a gruesome game of clue that is as hilarious and fun, as it is grotesque and hard to view. But if you’re already a proud worshiping member of the congregation of Tarantino cinephiles, then sit back and enjoy the service that has something to say about the darkness and ugliness that America still finds itself struggling to be free from. This is stunning, hilarious, provocative cinema at its razor sharp best.

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