As Tarantino’s second western film, it’s safe to say he’s rather new to many of these western concepts. It may be said that The hateful eight, might follow on from Django unchained, as it falls just after the American civil war, but it’s a completely different creation.
It starts huge. A very brooding Ernio Morricone overture. A Cinerama logo. Vast snowy landscapes. But, despite all this amazing spectrum, Tarantino ultimately arrows his focus: eight curious characters in a cabin for three hours. And the character clash there is tonnes of fun!
Like all of Tarantino’s films, the storytelling works by stealth. The fist half of the film is unhurried,even patience testing at times. It’s told to us that bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is traveling to a small town called Red Rock to deliver badass Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for hanging. On the way they collect Marques Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Red Rock’s supposed new sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Their trip is full of idle prattle about Chattanooga steaks, a letter from Abraham Lincoln (President at the time) and story from the civil war. But there is little conflict or confusion. Ave even when the stagecoach reached their stopover at Mininie’s Haberdashery and meet the second half of the awful octet – Bob ‘the Mexican’ (Demian Bichir), Red Rock’s new hangman, Oswaldo Mobary (Tim Roth), cowpoke Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and confederate General Smithers (Bruce Dern) – the slowly escalating chat continues.
But, like John Carpenter’s The Thing, a very heavy atmosphere of uneasiness, dread and mistrust builds among the group, until Samuel L. Jackson makes a very sadistic speech that ends the first act with a bullet. After returning from the interval to a sneaky Tarantino narrated recap, the story has gripped you. As things start to add up, the emotional investment you made in these people and their situations pays off, big time.
If the first half is lead by Russell’s stoic, wild man kind of attitude, then the second belongs to Jackson. Marquis Warren is the best role he has had in a long time, owing the floor as a Civil War Columbo, attempting to prove that someone in the wooden house is in “cahoots” with Domergue. Hogging supplies us with great comic relief, Leigh is put through the mill and Roth has fun as an eloquent European dandy, recently monopolised by Christoph Waltz.
Nerds (like myself) will have a field day checking Tarantino’s normal calling cards: chapter headings, Red apple tobacco, timeline flips and a last act full of gore and guns. But there is also some new tones. Morricone’s score, Tarantino’s first work with a composer, is used sparingly, and is only used as an enhancer, not a filler. Even more than Django, Eight is politically charged, especially in the first half, where Jackson and Russell talk a lot on American civil rights and race division.
On a par with Inglorious bastards and Django unchained, The hateful eight starts low-key but ultimately delivers big, bold and blood-soaked rewards. Let’s bring on QT’s western number 3.
TVNerd rating: 85%