The Hateful Eight – Review
The Hateful Eight, the eighth film by Quentin Tarantino (If like Tarantino you count Kill Bill as a single piece) and the second foray into the western genre for the acclaimed filmmaker following the critical and commercial successes of Django Unchained.
The film takes place in an intentionally vague amount of time not too long after the American civil war where a stagecoach carrying bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell, and his fantastic moustache), and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) come across a stranded U.S Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson). Warren manages to secure passage with the pair to the stagecoach lodge ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’ where a group of other various travellers have already sought refuge from an incoming blizzard. However not everyone may be as they seem.
The Hateful Eight is blessed with stunning cinematography, with much having being made of the film being shot on 70mm film. Ralph Richardson makes the landscapes ooze off the screen and the intimate setting of the haberdashery becomes a grandiose atmospheric stage for our performers. Coupled with Ennio Morricone’s harrowingly stirring score, the end result is one of true cinematic beauty as the claustrophobic setting creates a powerfully unerring tension amongst the characters that echoes into the cinema itself. The aesthetic is the films greatest strength. However the films narrative is not as tight as its visuals. The slow build to Minnie’s haberdashery does not create enough interest through either dialogue (Tarantino’s heralded specialty) or character development. The narrative structure combined with some inconsistency in Tarantino’s usually infallible dialogue creates a somewhat uneven quality to the film. The inclusion of a somewhat indulgent and unnecessary narration sequence (voiced by Tarantino himself) was an unwelcome distraction and symptomatic of what the films main issue is. That it is too long and in need of a tighter cut version. Not to say the film doesn’t contain boisterous highlights at times, including a career reel monologue for Samuel L Jackson, who brings every inch of his incalculable charisma to the screen ably supported by Russell, Dern and Bichir in particular, amongst others. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Oscar nomination is something of a surprise as I found her somewhat exaggerated performance to be functional, without being phenomenal. This is not meant as a slight against such a wonderful actress and is more indicative of her function in the plot as a whole, and she is certainly not the only actor in the film to succumb to this issue.
Despite its shortcomings The Hateful Eight is a worthwhile watch for its incredible atmosphere, and despite its flaws it remains an engaging, if sometime frustrating, experience. With one of Jackson’s finest performances, a beautiful score by the legendary Morricone, and Kurt Russell’s phenomenally hypnotic facial hair. I hope you find a lot to like in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.
Review by Alexander Halsall