Review: The Hateful Eight (18, 3hrs 7mins, inc. 15mins interval)


I don’t have the best of track records with Tarantino films…

…I have sat down to watch three of them before The Hateful Eight.  I liked Reservoir Dogs but then fell asleep watching Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds.  I found them far far too long and in desperate need of an editor with the courage to reign the director in (and this is from someone who has watched all the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy back-to-back… a total of around eleven hours… in one day… twice…!).  I thought it was just me that thought they were just a derivative mess so I put it down to the fact I just don’t get Tarantino films and to leave them alone… Then I created Film Fluff and I really should be reviewing the big releases, and despite the issues this has had in getting released, with Cineworld and others refusing to screen it following its glorious premiere in 70mm projection at the Odeon in Leicester Square (more about that on Google), a Tarantino film is always a cinematic event that everyone commenting on films needs to see.  I’m a little late to the party with this one as my local cinema is Cineworld so I’ve had to wait for my local art house cinema to screen it.

So, before the film started I splashed my face with cold water, drank three cups of coffee and ate my weight in Fruit Pastilles as this is another l-o-n-g Tarantino film coming in at a bum-numbing three hours and seven minutes (including a fifteen minute interval).  I needn’t have bothered though, as, to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hateful Eight more than I ever thought was possible and I didn’t nod off once.

Set some years after the American Civil War, It tells the story of Kurt Russel’s bounty hunter John Ruth, who is taking murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock to be hanged.  They are travelling with a blizzard in tow and en route they pick up fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), who is sitting on three dead bounties, and former militiaman Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who claims to be the Sheriff of Red Rock.  To shelter from the blizzard they travel to Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they encounter four others; a quiet cowboy on his way to visit his mother and a hangman travelling to Red Rock (played by Tarantino regulars Michael Madsen and Tim Roth respectively) along with Bruce Dern’s former Confederate General Sanford Smithers and Demián Bichir’s Bob “The Mexican”.  Paranoid about everyone trying to take his $10,000 bounty away from him, Ruth suspects that one or more of his cabin companions are in cahoots with Domergue to set her free, so he makes a pact with Warren to protect their bounties…

Despite its long running time, this film had me gripped from start to finish.  My attention never wavered throughout even though it is still far too long and could easily shave thirty minutes off and be a better film for it.  The problem I have had with other Tarantino films are the long-winded, meandering conversations that (a) make my mind wander, and (b) make it switch off!  In The Hateful Eight though he has written a script that sticks to the main plot and if it does deviate it doesn’t wander off too far and still has a relevance to the story whilst still keeping you interested.  The actors all bring the script to life with excellent performances and you believe they are the characters they are portraying, despite it being made up of a few A-listers and Tarantino stalwarts.  Jennifer Jason Leigh deserves her Oscar nomination for her performance in particular.

Recruiting the maestro that is Ennio Morricone to score this film was a stroke of genius as the soundtrack compliments the beautiful cinematography with aplomb.  The whole audio and visual aesthetic makes it feel like an authentic film from the Spaghetti Western era, which is quite an accomplishment considering its snowy terrain, which in turn creates a claustrophobic backdrop in the few locales the characters find themselves in.  A setting which, as a whole, I wouldn’t necessarily associate with this genre of film.

As you can imagine, the language is very offensive and the violence and gore levels are gratuitous, but these are to be expected when watching a Tarantino film.  I could have done without the narration of Tarantino to explain what has happened off camera as the pacing of the film stutters at this point.  It would have been a smoother finish if he had just integrated the scene he was explaining into the natural flow of the narrative.  If it finished at the two hour mark I think I would have been scoring this higher, too, but these are small quibbles.  I would like to thank Mr Tarantino for making this film as it has made me want to revisit some of his classics and give them another try, as I feel like there is a treasure trove of films out there that I have missed out on…

…I will still arm myself with caffeine and sugar though, just in case…



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