Review - The Hateful Eight
By midlandsmovies, Jan 5 2016 02:34PM
The Hateful Eight (2016) Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Reservoir Dogs? Love. Kill Bill Vol 2? Hate. Inglorious Basterds? Meh. Django? Love. Jackie Brown? Solid. Death Proof? Hate. My love-hate relationship with Tarantino was established some time ago and for every film I consider a masterpiece there is an equal one which is a flawed indulgence. Not to say any of them aren’t interesting and there’s more in the awful Death Proof than some directors' entire careers. However, the only person who inspires such polar thoughts that comes to mind is Stanley Kubrick. I’ll leave which ones of his to another blog. So, where does The Hateful Eight appear on this spectrum?
Firstly, Tarantino harks back to a golden age of cinema and has shot the film in 70mm which is usually reserved for the epic and grand vistas of Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hur. The opening shot from extreme close up to mountain range over 5 minutes shows that Tarantino has lost none of his nerve with the resurrected format. He challenges the audience with his decisions and simply says 'deal with it'. This opening leads to the set up where John "The Hangman" Ruth (played by a bearded and excellent Kurt Russell) is taking fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock where she will face the noose for her crimes. Along the way he picks up Samuel L Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren as well as Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who join him along for the ride fighting the stormy winter. They end up at Minnie's Haberdashery where they cross paths with more mysterious characters who fill in their backstory. Slowly. Over 2 more hours.
And here we come to the first flaw. Tarantino’s direction (as always) is close to perfection. With a suitable Ennio Morricone score and the obligatory Chapter headings, it starts with all the quirky ingredients Tarantino likes to fill his icy boots with – the nods to past cinema, the screen titles and the mysterious characters. But as with Death Proof and Inglorious, the indulgence (which I admit is often part of his charm) is so overbearing that I wonder how he can drag such a slight narrative to a length of nearly 3 hours. The actors are superb though. Russell is all grizzled beard and suspicious like the great grandaddy to his role in “The Thing”, whilst Jackson chews up the scenery alongside Tarantino regulars Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. It’s just that despite the beginning being well constructed and the ending having an element of surprise, the middle is so meandering and dialogue heavy to the point of dulling the senses.
The cinematography is brilliant throughout with only Tarantino’s ego being able to sustain the idea of using 70mm to make a film that is almost entirely interiors (the stage coach then the lodge). This however enables the actors to mostly express in extreme close-up yet at the same time there is almost no shot without other character(s) in the background such is the extreme width of the lens. Pulling the audience ever closer to the octo-group and the suspected ulterior motives of each.
Tarantino torments the audience with an icy paranoia in this wintery location which is bloated and beautiful at the same time. Consistent it is not, but with some great performances – especially the bloodied and scarred Jennifer Jason Leigh – many will look past the film’s misgivings. But for me, the monologues are extended and lengthy even for this director. Although a tired and slightly trite Tarantino is still better than most, it's this ragtag band of unsympathetic and exposition-heavy characters that may be the most hated thing about it. Challenging in the right way it will leave many viewers cold and as a film in the career of Tarantino, I reckon it will be mostly lost to the wilderness.
7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike