Quentin Tarantino’s unparalleled ability to produce great cinema while simultaneously educating viewers on cinema is one gloriously presented in The Hateful Eight, providing us with a grand cinematic experience that was almost prevented by an infamous script leak in 2014. Shot in glorious 70mm in Telluride, Colorado, this is a movie that demands to be seen in the theatre, and is one filled with all the classic Tarantino traits; a suspenseful yet morbidly funny story, unscrupulous characters that are masterfully acted, and tacit references to older films.
At the end of the day, it always comes down to how good is the story. Although there are several sequences that could easily have been trimmed down or even omitted, Tarantino’s expertise and confidence as a screenwriter allow him to atone for this flaw, providing us with clever dialogue and a claustrophobic setting containing eight jarring yet mutually untrustworthy characters whom we are eerily fascinated by. He utilises the whodunit element to its fullest capacity and keeps audiences leaning on the edge of their seat through whatever means, be it through mundane dialogue or a slowly building Mexican standoff.
In addition to its meticulous usage of suspense, The Hateful Eight is driven by a strong ensemble cast consisting of both Tarantino alumni and newcomers. Starring as Major Marquis Warren, Tarantino regular Samuel L. Jackson is arguably in his best-directed role since Pulp Fiction, and revives the cool and calculating nature of his characters that we have grown to love over the years. Kurt Russell morphs into the role John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth with little difficulty and has great chemistry with Jennifer Jason Leigh, who displays notable joy towards the challenge of playing the psychotic, racist and manipulative Daisy Domergue. Of particular mention is Walton Goggins’ portrayal of Sheriff Chris Mannix, who does such a good job in his role, I can’t even articulate my thoughts in a single review. The performances from virtually everyone in this film remind us how Tarantino is one of the best directors as far as performances go.
Another big star present in the The Hateful Eight is composer Ennio Morricone, who delivers a suspenseful yet almost Homeric score that compliments the bleak and mysterious nature of the film, especially during the overture and opening credits. The main theme is one guaranteed to slither throughout your synapses over the course of weeks, and is articulated by the highly ominous-sounding contrabassoons, further symbolising how no one is to be trusted.
Like he does on many of his films, Tarantino’s voice as a director is inevitably amplified. In light of recent police brutality in the United States, he is not afraid of voicing his repugnance towards this highly relevant social issue, as made clear recently in Django Unchained. However, unlike his previous work, his penchant for homages towards older films is more heavily veiled. That being said, there are several nods to his older films, with Inglorious Basterds explicitly referenced with one particular character’s true name and two lines nearly identical to their counterparts. The only problem I have with Tarantino’s direction is the inconsistency in tone; it’s dark and suspenseful for most of the 3 hour 7 minute runtime, then it becomes hard to take seriously when the violence becomes over-the-top and fiercely cartoonish in some places.
However, if there’s one thing I’m going to remember The Hateful Eight for, it will be it’s unique time-travel like ability to replicate the experience of going to the movies in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Not only is the 70mm Roadshow release complete with retro-style souvenir pamphlets, but the presence of both an overture and intermission not only harken to classic 60s films like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but force your imagination to run wild on what is coming next. Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Richardson treats the 2:67:1 format with immense respect, shooting in the rare format of Ultra Panavision 70, and giving the film a much more colourful, rustic and authentic look that has made me wonder whether movies will be shot on film again. The sound of projectors humming and the occasional flickering frames is so heart-warming to see as a film fan, and reminds us why the experience of going to the movies is one to treasure.
I don’t think The Hateful Eight will be appreciated by all movie goers, especially those who are intolerant of Tarantino’s usage of violence, but I personally feel that it will age really well, considering how much I love it. One Facebook comment that I stumbled upon perfectly sums up my thoughts on The Hateful Eight in comparison to cinema today; “It’s a shame that people have become so accustomed to soft-core, non-offensive, money whore blockbusters that they can’t enjoy authentic movies [like The Hateful Eight] anymore”.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ¾