The Hateful Eight – A Cynic’s Review

This new Quentin Tarantino film came with the usual dose of manure, from creator and producers.

Quentin had secured a premier at the Chinese Theatre, but was pushed out of the deal by Disney who blackmailed the cinema into showing Star Wars instead. This would have had me hammering at the gates, if Quentin hadn’t made a similar faux pas. Hateful Eight was shot in Panavision 70, a type of film stock not supported by many cinemas as it hasn’t been used in thirty years. One of the cinemas not able to show it was the only good one near me, which I had renewed membership for only two weeks ago. This made me wonder if Quentin has started to stray from impractical artistry to unacceptable obsessiveness. Despite this, I found myself seated in a sub-par venue, waiting to see if this film was worth it. It most certainly was.

Glorious 70mm screenshot from trailer
Glorious 70mm screenshot from trailer

Before I launch into the meat of this review, I will add a disclaimer: if you are of a nervous disposition, dislike violence in its many forms or twitch at the word “trigger”, do not watch this film. Quentin is an acquired taste and if you don’t like his other movies, you will not like this one.

Synopsis

With that out of the way, the Hateful Eight is a survival film in the guise of a Western. Eight men and a woman, most of them on their way to a town called Red Rock, are caught in a blizzard and hole up in a place called Minnie’s Haberdashery. Wounds fresh from the civil war are revealed as a cat-and-mouse game of paranoia pitches everyone against each other. The tension builds to moments of sudden violence, followed by meticulous analysis of the messy aftermath. It becomes unclear whether any of them will survive the night.

Review

This film itself is beautifully made, with sweeping shots of the tundra, electrified camerawork and an amazing score. There is also a sense of claustrophobia looming over the whole film. The opening places us in a cramped carriage where four of the most volatile characters are piled in and have to accommodate each other despite obvious dislike. Minnie’s Haberdashery is an open, airy space, but the storm and the camerawork make the conditions feel very much cramped and uncomfortable. The building tension between the characters further condenses the space and turns the film into a pressure-cooker that seems about to blow. The acting is superb: the dynamic between Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Ruth (Kurt Russel) drives the first half of the movie and the beautifully-crafted dialogue is engaging as the Western clichés are funny. Walton Goggins gives a standout performance as Chris Mannix; I’m expecting great things from him.

Sam Jackson at his finest (screenshot from trailer)
Sam Jackson at his finest (screenshot from trailer)

Despite the high quality, this film is obscenely distended in length, with a running time of almost three hours. I think Tarantino needs to exercise the same brutality in the editing room as he does with the camera. It is hard to say what to cut, but given it was an hour and a half before anything happened, something needs to be. There is very little fresh here, either. When I first saw Kill Bill I was blown away by the storytelling, twists in the narrative and the extreme violence portrayed. I did not feel that excitement of innovation with the Hateful Eight. The period it is set in strays too closely to Django Unchained, making it feel like an extension of that narrative. There’s great storytelling and engrossing violence (also a little nod to Battle Royale) but this is to be expected. It does what it does well, but what it does isn’t new.
H8fulI enjoyed The Hateful Eight and would recommend it to any Tarantino fan. The obese length didn’t prevent a satisfying payoff and it got more laughs out of the audience than most comedies I’ve seen. It is not Django or Kill Bill, but it’s a damn sight better than Reservoir Dogs.

 

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