Film review, by Claire Durrant, of the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino, a western about eight people stuck in a shop during a snow storm. Starring Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
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Director: Quentin Tarantino. Double Feature Films, FilmColony.
Cast & Credits
Producers: Richard N. Gladstein, Shannon McIntosh, Stacey Sher.
Writer: Quentin Tarantino.
Camera: Robert Richardson.
Music: Ennio Morricone.
Sets: Yohei Taneda.
Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Channing Tatum.
Agatha Christie gets the Quentin Tarantino touch in this Western crime mystery. Set some time after the American Civil War, a group of heinous characters including bounty hunters, a wanted criminal and a hangman are trapped inside a haberdashery during a heavy blizzard. Suspicions and secrets ensue as the death count rises.
The austere Tarantino is back in his eighth directorial piece, and after the huge success of Django Unchained (2012), we are back in a Western backdrop. But unlike the previous film, The Hateful Eight is mostly set in one constrained location. The established claustrophobic atmosphere allows us to watch for our enjoyment a group of despicable characters slowly turn on one another. It’s like Big Brother, but with weapons and gore, and yet still has prejudices we unfortunately see in today’s reality TV.
As always Tarantino relies to a large extent on his script, and The Hateful Eight is no different. In fact this is the film that is the most dependent on the writing. Due to its lack of locations and plot, the film is dialogue heavy. The opening half hour is spent solely in a carriage as we are introduced to the first group of characters; John Ruth (Russell), his prisoner Daisy (Leigh) and those they pick up on the way, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Goggins).
Once we get to the haberdashery, the next half of this film is spent seeing how these characters play with the new one’s we are greeted with. Especially in regards to Warren as the only black character now trapped in a room with an old racist (Dern).
When people inform me why they didn’t like the film, they argue that it’s boring and too long. Firstly, yes, the film does have a long running time (167 minutes), and unlike America we have to brave it without an intermission. Secondly, if you are the type who enjoys fast car chases, explosions, sex scenes and other blockbuster tropes, this film will not grab your attention. However, if like myself you enjoy dialogue heavy scenes and can handle the length of the film, you will be rewarded with classic Tarantino violence.
For the most part, the acting and the characters form great impressions. Madsen unfortunately is rather bland in his role. It’s like he’s playing a diet, sugar free version of other parts he’s played in previous Tarantino films. But luckily we have plenty of other characters to entertain us.
Russell makes for a great anti-hero, a camaraderie type and also deceptive to all those he comes across. Roth is enjoyable to watch as a gleeful, pompous British hangman who seems to be the only one enjoying his time trapped inside. A small voice in my brain however seemed to believe that Christoph Waltz was meant for that part. Goggins creates comical relief as the alleged new sheriff. But it’s of course Mr Jackson who becomes the authority figure in this group. He is the Poirot in this situation, if Poirot was a complex, ruthless, sadistic bounty hunter with a gun.
Alas, a new Tarantino film is never without controversy. From racism to violence, Tarantino has never shied away from disagreements. The Hateful Eight has had criticism in regards to its malice and misogyny towards criminal Daisy Domergue. When we are first introduced to her, her black eye is harsh and clear against the snowy background. Throughout the film she is repeatedly attacked by John Ruth to the point when her nose is broken, her front teeth are missing and she is reminiscent of Carrie (1976) in the degree of how blood soaked she is at the end.
Yes, she is the character who is most abused, but she is also unrepentant and unfazed by everything. She is arguably the strongest character. And to say that Tarantino is anti-feminist is just bizarre. This is the man who gave us The Bride; a badass woman who can defend herself against a room of trained assassins and punch her way out of a coffin.
The wide shots used in this film are perfect – we can literally see the whole picture. The scene may focus on two characters having a conversation, but we can also observe what’s happening behind them. The viewer becomes as suspicious as the characters. On the other hand the close ups are intricately personal. In which all facades are lost and we can see brief moments of the character’s true emotions.
The tension is also brilliant, the exaggerated score by Ennio Morricone makes every dispute that much more dramatic. You truly have no idea what is about to happen. There is constant tension throughout this film and when it finally cracks we are rewarded with the classic, over the top violence that Tarantino is known for. All of this is of course juxtaposed with an exuberant black comedy, which evidently gives it that Tarantino touch.
The cinematography is beautiful, the wintery blizzard shots we are presented with are as callous and as unpleasant as those seeking shelter from it.
The Hateful Eight can rightfully so be added to Tarantino’s impressive collections of films that prove himself to be a modern auteur.
See the official trailer on Youtube.