The Hateful Eight – Review: A Change in the Air for Tarantino?

You can almost feel a change in the air when a Tarantino film is on the horizon.

With the landmark director taking a few years between each of his projects. the release of a film seems to set audiences’ senses buzzing. From his first release of (arguably) the greatest independent movie ever made Reservoir Dogs to his genre mash-up ‘Southern’ Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino knows how to intrigue his followers. Now following up the success that was Django, the director has gone back to the Old West for a story of guns, horses, bloodshed with added mystery.

The Hateful Eight follows the adventures of several characters whose stories intertwine when all become stranded by a storm. Locked inside the small confides of Minnie’s Haberdashery are a bounty hunter with a prisoner (Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh), a lone bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson),  a hangman (Tim Roth), an old Confederate (Bruce Dern), and a quiet Cowboy visiting relatives (Michael Madsen). With bounty to claim and tensions high, it becomes clear that someone is not there by accident and not who they claim to be.

The Western epic is the eighth film by the famed director. With every film that Tarantino releases it seems inevitable that a media storm of controversy will surround it; whether it is in regards to the violence and language used with in the film or this time disputes over the films distribution. The film also had the leaking of the screenplay to overcome which almost hindered filmmaking.

Like Tarantino’s full body of work , The Hateful Eight is filled with violence, bloody gore, harsh language, and the usual exploration of racial tension and gender inequality. If these are things that offend you then do not go to see a Tarantino film.

The film follows a simple concept and narrative. A group of strangers become trapped together and they (plus the audience) must figure out what their intentions are. This is Tarantino characters with an Agatha Christie mystery twist. The simplicity of the films concept is overshadowed by the director’s larger than life characters that deliver his usual razor sharp dialogue. From the groups ‘chance’ encounter suspicions are raised, the plot twists till the film’s final act.

It is safe to say that for long periods of time the narrative does not progress. That space, however, is filled with great dialogue and Tarantino’s usually charismatic, if morally ambiguous characters. This lack of solid progression does stunt the film and means it lacks the structure and momentum build of his previous works.

For his eighth cinematic outing Tarantino decided to film his Western on Ultra Panavision 70mm. Only the eleventh film to be fully filmed in this format. For the wide outdoor shots of the great outback the medium creates a beautiful and unbelievable view of the American landscape. The reminiscent aesthetic of old cowboy films of the past is really striking. Considering that so much of the film is set in the small inside of Minnie’s Haberdashery, however, it seems redundant for the entire film, though ambitious.

Usually Tarantino films are filled with both stand out songs and score but this film is different. Impressive scores accompany the beautiful cinematography in selected sequences but this film lacks the usual stand out songs audiences have become accustomed too. This puts the film more in the genre of Western perhaps but marks a change from his body of work.

For this film Tarantino has recast some of his best collaborators and added a few newbies, veterans Tim Roth, Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, and Walton Goggins are joined by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum.

As with all his previous Tarantino collaborations Samuel L. Jackson dominates the screen as Bounty Hunter Major Marquis Warren. His distrust of the Haberdashery’s inhabitants drives the plot forward and Jackson had arguably the most standout scenes. Jennifer Jason Leigh delivers a cold and shrewd performance as bounty prisoner Daisy Domergue. Despite the cold and violent treatment she receives, she remains a defiant and forceful screen presence. The film also showcases a small but understated performance from Channing Tatum.

The Hateful Eight is an enjoyable film. With the standard great characters, dialogue, visuals and twists of a Tarantino film but slightly lacking the thrust of his best work. Similar to Django Unchained, (which I bloody love), the overall drawback to this film is its running time. At just under three hours. it is long and the slow burn style of the narrative means parts feel unnecessary.

The slow pace and stunted narrative means The Hateful Eight is on the lower end of the directors work, yet still a worthy film that still denoted a change in the air for the audience.


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