Film Review: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight
Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the NZ premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, at which the man himself – Tarantino (along with our very own Zoe Bell) made an appearance at. After walking the black carpet and hearing from Quentin about his latest film, media settled in to their cinema seats for (close to) three hours of pure Tarantino talent. Here’s what you can look forward to…
The first half of The Hateful Eight is essentially dialogue-driven and the second half full of twists and turns and lots of violence. Tarantino’s smart scripting makes The Hateful Eight almost play like a Broadway play, and it gives an exceptional ensemble cast of actors lots to work with.
If you’re the kind of moviegoer who got restless during the more dialogue-heavy sequences of “Death Proof” or “Reservoir Dogs,” you may find that there’s too much talk and not enough action. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a Tarantino-scripted conversation, or two or five — particularly in a period piece where the characters can’t make references to movies or TV shows, “The Hateful Eight” may well engage you as a darkly funny, locked-door mystery that’s in no hurry to show its hand.
The premise is simple. It’s a few years post-Civil War and at the opening in a very wintry Wyoming full of snowy conditions, a stagecoach comes into view carrying John Ruth (Kurt Russell) aka The Hangman who is handcuffed to his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the way to taking her in. Along the way a Bounty Hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and would-be sheriff (Walton Goggins) join them before the weather forces a stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they unexpectedly meet another group of men, rather than Minnie. There is Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo Mowbray (Tim Roth), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) and Gen. Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). Some of this group may not appear to be who you think they are, but here they are, ‘the Hateful Eight,’ gathered for a memorable night that turns very nasty.
The Civil War is still a recent, and touchy, subject for the group, what with Warren having fought on the Union side — and, it’s rumored, having killed many white soldiers on both sides — while Mannix was part of a CSA splinter army. But political differences are pushed aside when it becomes clear that not everyone is who they appear to be, and that there may be a conspiracy afoot.
Tarantino does play some dirty pool with the narrative, withholding particular bits of information from the audience until late in the game, but never more so than what Agatha Christie used to do in her prime. The pitch-black wit of “Jackie Brown” is on display here as well, making for engaging and unpredictable exchanges between the characters, even as the tension swells around them.
Once again, the filmmaker has assembled a top-notch cast and given them characters and dialogue that allow them to really sink in their incisors. It’s a fascinating ensemble, but if there’s an MVP, it’s Goggins, whose character turns out to be much more and much less than one might imagine on first viewing, straddling a fine line between clever and idiotic, villainous and sympathetic.
Now that he’s given us a comedic, indoor Western, one wonders what other strange genre mash-ups Tarantino has in store. The Hateful Eight” may frustrate some of his more literally sanguine supporters, but it’s nonetheless an entertaining piece of dialogue-driven theatre, with the occasional rifle-shot to the head.
In summary, Tarantino has done it again! He’s created an absolute masterpiece by taking the Western genre and creating an epic event!
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