Read Time – 3.00min
This is a film by Quentin Tarantino.
He wrote and directed it. He manipulates every shred of this film including the intrusive voice over. It is long at over three hours. It is extremely violent in a way which is tiresome rather than intriguing as in his past films. It is needlessly shocking which was surprising for a filmmaker of his talent. It was self-indulgent and yet it still has me thinking about it a few days later.
Set in the late 1800’s, “The Hateful Eight” finds John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorting the outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) back to civilization and justice when they are forced by a blizzard to divert to a small cabin in the Wyoming countryside which is unexpectedly busy considering how isolated it is. From here, the film though ostensibly a western turns into a Rabelaisian drawing room piece more akin to a filmed play. It is closer to “Reservoir Dogs” then any of his other films and unfortunately it comes off much worse for the comparison.
The chess pieces are moved very quickly into view so it is not giving anything away to say that the filmgoer soon realises that there are no heroes in this world. Everyone seems motivated by malice or greed, racism of numerous kinds floats through the film and if it wasn’t Tarantino, who is known for writing large complex female characters, you would also think there is a whiff of misogyny.
The original script leaked in 2014 and Tarantino was so incensed he sued “Gawker” magazine and stated that he would scrap the film. Two further drafts (one totally from Daisy’s point of view) were written till we saw the finished product. This is important because the film is ostensibly about America and its complex race relations. The film has numerous ethnicities represented as well as various ex-soldiers of the US Civil War. Yet, it was written before the events in Ferguson, Missouri and recently Tarantino was lambasted by police officers for attending a “Black Lives Matter” rally. If we give Tarantino the prescience he is claiming, what does the film say about the future of the US? Pessimistic would be an understatement.
As usual, for one of his films, the cast is stellar on paper though Madsen and Roth were wasted. I can’t help think that the pompous Oswaldo Mowbray (Roth) was written for Christoph Waltz who was busy on the latest Bond film. Russell and Tarantino’s stalwart, Samuel L. Jackson shine on occasion but the film is stolen by Jennifer Jason Leigh who was recognised recently with a Best Supporting Actress nomination at this year’s Oscars.
For every piece of master storytelling there are one (if not three clunkers). The score by Ennio Morricone is fantastic and having been filmed in 70 mm the few scenes set outside look gorgeous. However, that begs the question as to why Tarantino talked up shooting on original 70 mm film in these digital times when ostensibly he is shooting 90% of the film in a 20 by 20 cabin. At three hours, the first hour is agonisingly slow especially as it’s quite obvious as to what is happening so the tension dissipates. The film picks up pace but just as it gathers momentum there will be a moment so ridiculously gratuitous that it pulls the viewer out of the film. The one old Tarantino piece of magic is the flashback in the middle of the film which resets the table as we enter the third act.