Title: The Hateful Eight
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kirk Russell, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demián Bichir, James Parks
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Genre: American Western, Mystery, Murder-Mystery
To me, to this day, there is only one director whose films I will actively go and watch in the cinema. Yes, I love plenty of other directors and producers – Baz Luhrmann, Danny Boyle, Tom Hooper, are just a few – but when it comes to physically going to the cinema, buying popcorn and a ticket and just staring up at the screen for hours on end, there is only one director that I will properly do that for. And that is Quentin Tarantino.
To me, his blend of extreme violence, long tracking shots, lengthy monologues and the Mexican stand-off just makes for a story of epic proportions. I could rewatch every Tarantino film, and still feel like it was the first time. So, I was unbearably excited to finally go and see his newest, and coincidentally, his eighth film, The Hateful Eight. And with a stellar cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kirk Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen and Walton Goggins, what more was there not to love?
Set in the blisteringly cold and mountainous Wyoming post-American Civil War, the film is divided into chapters – not unlike that of Kill Bill and other Tarantino films – and the first two chapters focus on a stagecoach ride. Its inhabitants are two bounty hunters, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and Jon Ruth (Russell); and Ruth’s prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Leigh), as they all venture out towards the fictional town of Red Rock. Both are delivering their bounty’s – Warren’s being a motely group of dead criminals tied to the roof of the coach, whilst Ruth’s being that of the very-much alive Domergue. In the second chapter, the audience meets an ex ‘Lost-Causer’ military man, Chris Mannix (Goggins), who is also journeying to Red Rock to become the new sheriff.
However, as the weather worsens, and a blizzard threatens to overwhelm the stage coach, the motley crew are forced into stopping at a roadside inn called Minnie’s Haberdashery. And it is there where we meet the rest of the cast. They’re Joe Gage (Madsen), a solitary cattle-hand; Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), a highly charismatic hangman; Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern), a retired Confederate general; and Bob (Demián Bichir), a Mexican handyman and the haberdashery’s temporary caretaker.
And it is whilst these strangers are trapped together does it become obvious that there is something nefarious going on. Ruth believes that there is somebody working to secure the release of Domergue, and in a style that is very reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs, we have a group of gun-slinging strangers who all distrust each other, but remain trapped in one small location. And this is where Tarantino is at his most comfortable and creative.
This film doesn’t disappoint in a lot of instances. We’ve got the fail-safe Tarantino-esque monologues and sweeping bits of dialogue that Samuel L. Jackson performs with such gusto and feeling. The cast equally have their own amazing strengths – Roth gives the comic relief that is sometimes needed in such a tense environment, whilst Goggins delivers the perfect ‘Gone-with-the-wind-highly-racist-Southern-deserter’ role with conviction, that you find him both disgraceful, yet pitiful. And as the only real strong female role in the entire film, Leigh deserves all the credit for making her Domergue the most unladylike and lowlife murderess going.
The film is tense to the point of breaking. It continues to ramp up the pressure, and you know, as a viewer, that there is going to be a snapping point. But Tarantino keeps twisting and turning in his story-telling, so much so that you don’t know exactly when or how the facade will break. But, with the addition of the superb soundtrack, composed by Ennio Morricone – his first Western soundtrack in 35 years – the tension became almost unbearable in some places.
So yes, I did absolutely love it. I find Tarantino’s use of the one room and intimate setting to be one that would always work. And it has. But to me, this film did feel like an accumulation, and sort of celebration of his other work, whether it was supposed to or not. As it did have all the elements of the rest of his films, the Hateful Eight could seem slightly disappointing to some, as it didn’t have much originality. With a black bounty hunter and severe racial tension coming straight from the world of Django, and the group of betraying strangers being something out of Reservoir Dogs, The Hateful Eight does just about hold its own in terms of the rest of his films, but maybe next time, we need to go back to the non-linear storylines of Pulp Fiction, and put this Old Western vibe to bed.
But with a brilliant and always entertaining cast, a director who always pushes it to the limit, and a storyline that is full of tension and gore, this film is so distinctive, it just had to be a Tarantino movie. And to me, that quintessential trope is always going to be a winner.
(Disclaimer – This film is rated an 18/R – and depicts very graphic scenes of violence, profane language and having elements of sex and nudity. If you are at all squeamish or could get offended or triggered by such events, I would suggest you steer clear. Information all taken off the IMDb’s Parental Guide)