The Hateful Eight: Film Review
Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cinema's enfant terrible returns with his eighth outing, a sprawling epic yet intimate film about justice, simmering tensions and life after the Civil War.
It's the story of bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who are powering through the wintry Wyoming landscape in a stagecoach on their way to Daisy's appointment with the ultimate hangman.
But as the storm sets in deeper, Ruth finds two others on the road seeking shelter; one is former union soldier turned bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson in usual commanding form) and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) the soon-to-be new sheriff of Red Rock where both Ruth and Domergue are bound.
Holing up in a stopover cabin until the storm passes, the quartet find a bunch of new unexpected faces. Forced to seek shelter, Ruth begins to feel uneasy as the pot starts to boil over with mistrust...
Age has not diminished Tarantino's cinematic fire and The Hateful Eight is further proof that he intends to rattle the cage and polarise the audience for as long as he can.
This potboiler chamber piece, so beautifully shot with its evocative use of the Wyoming landscapes in the opening moments, rattles with as much Tarantino DNA as you'd expect - and indeed hope for.
With his trademark dialogue in full effect, this film feels like his most mature take on character and does much to build a world that's pretty much set in one place (in fact, great swathes of The Hateful Eight feel like a stage play painted on a bigger canvas).
But here's the kicker with The Hateful Eight - it appears that everybody lies and everybody is particularly nasty.
Whereas previous films have had edges that help you latch onto those you're watching in some way or other, The Hateful Eight has a delightful penchant for ripping your sympathies from asunder.
With the very briefest of back stories for some of the characters, Tarantino delights in presenting you with eight people who are only there to be hated and whose ultimate fates are all tangled up in the post-Civil War resentments that will linger for years to come.
Ultimately, as with most Tarantino flicks, the film becomes swathed in as much blood as there is raging bile below the surface of all of these men. They are antagonists more than anti-heroes in the truest sense, with each layer of nastiness revealing yet more below the surface of every single one of them. And as the story evolves over its six wryly dark chapters, it's clear Tarantino's desire is to subvert audience expectations and draw on various TV western genres to paint this tapestry with more than just blood, and instead infuse it with gallows humour.
As ever with Mr Tarantino, depending on your tolerance for violence and colourful language, The Hateful Eight will be as much a personal film for everyone watching it. It's quintessential Tarantino though as it pours all the ingredients into a pot, stirs them around and stands well back ready for the powderkeg to ignite.
Of the cast, Jackson provides his usual commanding presence as the Major and steals the scene with one story which may or may not be true, but is certainly likely to never be forgotten; Goggins and Dern gel in a generational way and give the Confederate conflict a face that's never likely to be forgotten, thanks to Goggins' hillbilly stylings. Tim Roth channels Terry Thomas with his turn as Red Rock's hangman. As the sole woman (for most of the film) Jennifer Jason Leigh impresses with a turn that is more about what's unsaid than actually said - and her final scenes give rise to the meshing of the western with traces of horror as she stands like a Carrie figure in your traditional cabin-in-the-snowy-woods.
Mixing mystery, Cluedo, post Civil War politics, elements of The Thing (thanks to evocatively shot and lit exteriors in the wintry surrounds), a terrific Ennio Morricone score, some stunning cinematography courtesy of long time Tarantino aide Robert Richardson, a deeply verbose script which borders on shaggy dog story and teeters dangerously close to needing an edit at times, historical elements of justice on the frontier and post the War, and an ensemble which work incredibly well together, The Hateful Eight is nothing short of a seething experience that makes you work for its rich rewards.