The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight opens with a remarkable image: Samuel L Jackson’s major Marquis Warren, sat astride a saddled pile of frozen corpses, flagging down a stagecoach as it struggles through a snow-covered Wyoming valley. What follows is a ponderous but accomplished revenge Western, though one which has more in common with Tarantino’s previous films, such as Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds than anything by John Ford.
Warren talks his way into a lengthy carriage ride with John “The Hangman” Ruth, played by a mustachioed Kurt Russell, who is escorting Jennifer Jason Leigh’s outlaw Daisy Domergue to face the local justice. They are joined by gormless new sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), and make their way to the nearest shelter, an inn named Minnie’s Haberdashery. There they meet the other half of the eight, who include an ageing confederate general, a mysterious Mexican and an overly polite British hangman. Minnie is, ominously, nowhere to be seen. Here this group of no goods, criminals and brutes will become embroiled in a tense standoff over two hours in length, with enough twists, turns and bloodshed to last the whole of 2016.
There is much to hate in The Hateful Eight. Division into chapters does nothing to relieve the claustrophobic sluggishness which the script, peppered with racist slurs and empty philosophising, only exacerbates. Few minorities come off well here, from Mexicans to African Americans, not to mention the constant stream of casual violence directed towards Domergue, one of the film’s few female characters. The fact that she is a prisoner of Ruth’s destined for the rope in a nearby town seems good enough for Tarantino to subject her to a continuous ordeal of punches, shoves and aggression. It is also unclear how we are meant to feel about these characters, each who has something to hide and a pistol up their sleeve. Few have any positive qualities, and lack motivation or context. One begins to yearn for the bar scene in Inglourious, similarly visually confined but magnitudes more tense.
The film is redeemed by its performances, particularly those from Jackson, Goggins and Tim Roth, who manage to come to terms with the unpalatable characters and have some fun with them. Tarantino also makes a good move taking legendary composer Ennio Morricone on board, a pioneer of the Spaghetti Western soundtracks, whose subtle and deliberate score adds atmosphere and gravitas to proceedings. The cinematography, shot in rare 70mm Ultra Panavision, drowns the characters in the snowy mountains and in the vast wood-panelled interior of the Haberdashery. The violence is gleeful, but the ultimate outcome is nothing more than bleak.
The Hateful Eight is released nationwide on 8th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Hateful Eight here: