In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.
I’ve been waiting a while to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest, ‘The Hateful Eight’, after it was released more than a month ago. After Cineworld threw their toys out the pram and decided not to screen the digital version, I choose to wait until the 70mm roadshow version turned up at my local independent, Edinburgh Filmhouse, to see the film as Tarantino intended with an intermission and an overture. I’m glad I did and the film was well worth the wait, with the presentation of the feature feeling like a throwback to times when going to see a film really felt like a proper event. ‘The Hateful Eight’ is Tarantino’s eighth feature and it’s also his longest, but unlike some of his recent films, it really earns its length and if you can get past the slow start it’s really rewarding.
The premise of the film focuses on a group of eight people (hence the title), who find themselves holed up in a stagecoach stopover to seek refuge from a blizzard. From the outset it’s clear that none of these characters are to be trusted and part of the film’s enjoyment comes from immersing yourself in the dialogue and their back stories and trying to figure out what is truth and what is fiction. The assembled eight mixes Tarantino regulars like Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth with newcomers Jennifer Jason Leigh and Demian Bichir, as well as actors he’s worked with once previously (Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell and Walton Goggins). It’s an excellent ensemble with the superb Walton Goggins arguably the standout. To most TV viewers he’ll be known for his excellent turns as Boyd Crowder on ‘Justified’ or Shane Vendrell on ‘The Shield’ and it’s great to see him recognised by Tarantino and given such a juicy part. His supposed new sheriff of Red Rock is one of many duplicitous characters in ‘The Hateful Eight’, but there’s something about the way Goggins sells it that makes you never trust him. Even the characters that feature less than the others are well developed and the excellent script gives the audience a feel for every character’s motivations and reasons for heading towards Red Rock.
The first part of the film leading up to the intermission takes the definition of slow burning to a whole other level as we spend a lot of time following John Ruth (Russell), a bounty hunter known as ‘The Hangman’ as he travels towards Red Rock with his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Leigh) to collect his bounty. Along the way they pick up a fellow bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and the apparent new sheriff of Red Rock, Chris Mannix (Goggins). It’s clear these men don’t trust each other and this distrust is only elevated when they arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery to discover a collection of strangers at the expense of the owner, who is apparently visiting her mother. It’s the excellent dialogue and the intriguing set up that holds the audience’s attention, as very little happens in this period beyond introducing ‘The Hateful Eight’ themselves. Once we settle into Minnie’s Haberdashery the film becomes much like a stage show as the characters dance around each other and the audience await this powder keg of a situation to truly kick off. Tarantino’s direction is excellent as he shifts perspective around his ensemble and the sense of paranoia and tension increases dramatically.
Ennio Morricone’s score is foreboding and ominous, and it’s no surprise to learn that three of the tracks included in the film’s soundtrack were cuts left out of Morricone’s score for the superb ‘The Thing’, a film that ‘The Hateful Eight’ takes many cues from. Both films features a group of characters in a confined environment amidst people they don’t really know and don’t trust, with the paranoia this set up entails bubbling under the surface. Whilst the first part of the film is slow, the second is pure Tarantino at his finest. The plot strands that have been teased and the anarchy that has been hinted at come to fruition and it’s absolutely thrilling to watch it all unfold, with the slowly building suspense giving way to something closer to Tarantino’s debut in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ with extreme violence and pay offs galore.
If you’re willing to be patient there’s a lot to like about ‘The Hateful Eight‘, even if Tarantino does stretch the audience’s patience in the lead up to the stopover. From that point onwards, I found this to be a riveting watch, superbly acted and with a script that delivers on its promise in entertaining and thrilling ways.
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks and Channing Tatum