Tarantino enters the Blizzard’s of Wyoming and huddles together eight very different individuals post-civil war America in his second Western, and eighth film to date: The Hateful Eight.
One of them, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is taking a prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the Hangman. He finds himself stuck in a den due to the weather with his coach driver and six other individuals, all claiming to be something they may or may not be. Tension mounts as the group settle in from the cold and slowly start to cross political paths with each other – all mounting to the boil when trigger fingers are pulled.
Filmed in glorious looking 70mm – it’s also a first for Tarantino to use a new score (but rest assured there are songs dropped in, and even some old unused Ennio Morricone music from The Thing as well recycled here for good effect). The new material though is particularly effective, and perhaps might incline the director towards this way of thinking next time round as well. Django Unchained was a sign that the director was not only getting lazy with his dialogue editing and cut and paste attitude towards speeches made, but also that his choice in music was really starting to effect the quality of his work. It surprised no-one that he would use off-kilter materials for the film, but some of it jarred so much against what was onscreen that it just resulted in a failed experiment. After so many wonderful hits, it he was due a tragic miss, and the music in Django unchained was most certainly that miss.
Here he has made the right choices all round as Morricone’s work serves to directly support what you see on screen and adds weighty sense of the cold, the enclosure and the mistrust locked in that cabin.
Tarantino has also gone to pains to make sure that his dialogue is also relevant. quite how he managed to win an Oscar for the bloated and often irrelevant words that encompassed his previous western is still a mystery, but it seems he has learned the lesson anyway despite the reward and for once is letting the material do all its own boasting without the need to pep it up with nonsense or endless chin wagging that would serve to pad the widest of recycle bins. Here almost every word is worth hearing. Sure you could cut it all down, but why bother when it never bothers you.
It is most certainly as racey and political as ever. But he doesn’t let too much popular culture intrude, instead he lets the time and the characters therein inform where tension lays. And he has created such gloriously rounded characters here – all with a very “hateful” disposition in life towards certain others that it only helps to buold tension further between characters.
In fact you are almost at the 90 minute mark before anything does kick off – and it does so literally almost on the whim of a characters choice to do so.
So many of the people are at each others’ throats in the opening act of the film, it does come as a surprise as to who is going to unleash their brutal side first on another. And this guessing game is continued into the second half, although matters most certainly speed up somewhat.
This could well be one of Tarantino’s most linear films like Jackie Brown – and like that film, only at one point does it really take a dive through time to show you something else.
Kurt Russell leads off well with another fine and blunt performance. In fact he has a double western whammy at the moment with the also very entertaining Bone Tomahawk due out. Here though, his is on much more raw form with very colourful language and a back hand that’s only too happy to strike the side of Domergue’s face whenever he sees fit. As Domergue, Jennifer Jason Leigh has some of the least dialogue, buy she lets everyone know just who she is with the looks she gives – especially after action has been taken against her. You can see right into the black soul that is Daisy Domergue and what danger lies therein.
Samuel L Jackson has perhaps unfairly been given the best role in the film as he literally does the most walking and talking. He’s also very much an instigator of many of the onscreen antics. But the highest of praise must also be given to Walton Goggins (who almost runs off with the film), who has much less to do, for matching him every step of the way in terms of on screen charisma – if indeed you can call it that for such a loathsome group. And loathesome they are. killers, loud mouths, racists – all out for number one be it for money or self-gratification: There are not many “nice” people in The Hateful Eight. But you can be sure you will be rooting for certain characters, sad to see some of them go, happy to see others obliterated. There are even moments of gentle calm between characters that offer perhaps a view on just how peacefully some of them can get along with each other if they tried.
Tarantino has been refining his craft and making the most of the worship hailed upon him by critics – it is fully earned here in a very original film, with important, funny and intellectually stimulating characters and dialogue that do not all just sound like an extension of the directors ego (like every girl in Death Proof). It is not a mangled and bloated collection of ideas jammed into a film for the sake of being art for art’s sake (see Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds), nor is it wet behind the ears of his early years – as brilliant as they may be – they are still tattered and play to a modern pop-culture reference loving crowd. What it is, is very fine film making, and the time simply flies by for anyone with a good ear for dialogue and who enjoy watching the introduction of characters, setting a scene, adding tensiuon and then watching it all explode in the latter chapters. Arguments will sway people in all sorts of directions – but this one simply states that this is Tarantino’s best film so far, and demands repeat viewings.