Review – The Hateful Eight (2015)

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The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 167 minutes

I’ve been anticipating The Hateful Eight for quite some time, it’s not often that I get to see a BBFC 18-rated film in the cinema. I have long been a Tarantino fan, he always manages to produce entertaining movies. To me he remains perhaps the most well-known and adored auteur director in the world, but he has started being a bit too self-indulgent for me since Inglourious Basterds and I was hoping The Hateful Eight would be a return to form.

Whereas Django Unchained was set before the Civil War, The Hateful Eight takes place a couple of years after the war, this setting I believe was deliberate as it opens up dialogue about racial politics; some characters themselves fought in the war, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) was a ruthless soldier who fought valiantly for the north, with other characters like the old general (Bruce Dern) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) having key ties to the South. As shown in the trailers and posters, a majority of the film is set in one location, Minnie’s Haberdashery, where our ‘Hateful Eight’ are trapped inside by a harsh all-encompassing blizzard. The straight forward high-concept got me really excited, many reviews had also mentioned the ‘Agatha Christie’ tone which only peaked my excitement. The film struck me as an unexpected and bold move for Tarantino, it’s less visual than Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, the visuals play second fiddle to the tight script, I enjoyed this change as my main problem with Inglourious Basterds is that it feels more like a flashy montage than a complete narrative film.

In many ways, The Hateful Eight feels reminiscent of a stage play or a high-end audio drama: Tarantino has divided the film into chapters and each of the main characters are so outlandish and caricatured, making them unforgettable, but so distanced from what you might perceive as real life. Tarantino’s main strength as a writer is his gift for dialogue and creating brilliant characters – but the characters of The Hateful Eight seem far more outlandish than usual and it is sometimes hard to connect with some of the characters, especially in some of their pivotal moments.

The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s most indulgent effort by far, even surpassing the likes of Death Proof and Jackie Brown. With The Hateful Eight, Tarantino is preaching to the crowd: if you love his quirks then you’ll walk away happy.  I enjoyed the tense nature of the film and the old-fashioned nature of the presentation. One of the elements I enjoyed the most are the practical blood n’ guts effects by renowned gore-wizard Greg Nicotero, the selected score by Ennio Morricone was also spot on.

Like pretty much every Tarantino film, the casting is near perfect. The is Walton Goggins, who’s performance as the racist sheriff manages to be both dramatic and humorous, Kurt Russell is at his most terrifying and cruel. I have to admit that I was not really familiar with Jennifer Jason Leigh before seeing The Hateful Eight but after seeing her play Daisy Domergue, I will keep an eye on future films shes in, Domergue is a crazed mix of Frank Booth from Blue Velvet and Elle Driver from Kill Bill Vol. 2. Sam Jackson stays on top of his game as the Columbo-like figure who slowly unravels the mystery of Minnie’s Haberdashery.

Overall, I enjoyed watching The Hateful Eight, it’s a visceral, thoroughly tense and nail-biting experience. As a fan of horror movies, even I have to admit that there were some parts when I had to look away. I don’t think it’s a masterpiece, but still a riskier project from what we might expect from Tarantino. The Guardian and several other reviewers have spoken positively about the film’s social relevance but I personally see only a few lines that hint at the problems that America is going through, but still quite brave of the director to tackle an issue that many are keen to distance themselves from.  The story, for the most part, is excellent and keeps you hyped up for the “reveal” – but a slow beginning and seemingly unwarranted intermission slightly cheapened the film for me.

Well worth a watch if you are looking for something a bit more mature and dark. 

 The Hateful Eight (2015) on IMDb