The Hateful Eight Directed by Quentin Tarantino Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth.
Quentin Tarantino films are like marmite- everyone either loves them, they hate them, or they’re absolutely apathetic. If you love Tarantino’s films then a review would be redundant, as you’ve already seen and loved this film. If not, then read on.
The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s eighth film after 2011’s Django Unchained, and is similarly set in Civil War-era America. The plot studies several strangers (more than eight, as the title leads to you believe) who all find themselves sheltering from a blizzard in a cabin. Various tensions and secrets unravel, causing the number of strangers to slowly decline in Tarantino’s traditionally crimson way.
These tensions are not plot-related tensions but character driven, showing Tarantino’s writing hand as the characters play off each other to create conflict and corroboration. Although the characters all seem to be written as slightly broad stereotypes, and not all the strangers are characterised to the degree that perhaps an audience would appreciate, the conflict arising between, for example, Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), the black Union Major and bounty hunter, and Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), the Confederate general, and many other small conflicts play out amongst and influence the mystery plot. As with all of Tarantino’s works, the pacing is much too slow- until around the half-way point when the ball really begins to roll and the film benefits as a result.
Tarantino always seems to have trouble properly directing an ensemble cast- as whilst Jackson plays an entertaining badass as always, actors such as Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir are left in his shadow, which slightly diminishes the aura of mystery surrounding the plot. All the actors perform their roles great, but that’s a little too easy to say when some only have minimal lines.
The tone of the film, however, is superb. Tarantino expertly balances the tension and the humour that he is known for, culminating in the final scene which combines the two into a beautifully brutal finale. Unfortunately it is only when all the characters arrive at the cabin that these tones are introduced- a fairly redundant first two chapters serves only to set the scene and introduce a few of the characters, and could easily have been scrapped in order to reduce the monumental running time.
Tarantino actually filmed the entirety of the film on 70mm reel, showcasing this in a roadshow complete with an intermission, several alternate scenes and an overture. It is clear that this is the way the film was intended to be viewed, shown as a classic western would have been decades ago, however this only toured around America and so this review can’t comment on the quality of this edition. To fully immerse the film in the golden age of Westerns, Tarantino also hired Ennio Morricone, perhaps the greatest film composer of all time who wrote for Westerns such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West, to write the soundtrack. This was Morricone’s first full Western score in over 30 years. Unfortunately the score is largely forgettable, as no tracks stand out or particularly influence the film as they do in Sergio Leone’s classics. The film benefits much more from the pre-existing songs used in certain scenes, such as Roy Orbison’s ‘There Won’t Be Many Coming Home’.
If you are a fan of Tarantino, this film is perfect for you. It is three hours of all of his classic tropes, jokes and stylistic features. If, however, Tarantino films are to you simply films, this film may bore you. As with all his films it relies too heavily on his choices in style and humour to deliver a substantial plot or characters, and even an hour in saw complaints and moans from the audience in the viewing I saw due to the length. Watch this if you love Tarantino- if not, while this will not disappoint you, it won’t entertain you either. Instead catch up on all the great stuff you missed
Review by Tom Bedford