Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson; Jennifer Jason Leigh; Kurt Russell
By Paul Rodger, Arts Editor
Last Friday saw the release of Quentin Tarantino’s latest work, The Hateful Eight. Not going into the screening with the highest of expectations, given the huge success of his previous Western Django Unchained – ranking as the highest box office grossing Western of all time – its proceeding title had a lot to live up to.
Starring classic Tarantino collaborators, including Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, as well as some new faces such as Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum, the plot is centred on the convergence of an eclectic group of eight meddling characters. Including bounty hunters, outlaws, an aged Confederate general, an ex-northern war major, and a supposed soon-to-be sheriff, set in the midst of a blizzard in post-Civil War Wyoming, the eight are forced to hole up in a stagecoach lodge. Consisting of six chapters, from the third to the final one set in the lodge, tensions stir as the stop-over is divided in two; signifying the north-south divide that continued to stoke animosities in the post-war era, including to this day. Apparently influenced partly by 1960s Western TV shows, Tarantino discussed the concept of placing such a group in a confined space, stating: “Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens.”
Setting the scene, the film plays out between different character introductions, all fraught with pretence and suspicion. Arguably the best is the arresting dialogue between Major Warren (Jackson) a.k.a. “The Bounty Hunter”, and General Smithers (Bruce Dern) a.k.a. “The Confederate.” In a racially hostile exchange, Warren informs the war veteran of a graphic depiction of how he was responsible for the latter’s son’s death. Provoking Smithers, this leads to the first gunshot in the film, at the end of chapter three – where the film starts to become interesting.
Set in the snowy mountains, the 70mm visuals are beautifully captured and reminiscent of the epic wintery panoramas in Django. The score, composed by the highly acclaimed Ennio Morricone, who previously worked on Sergio Leone’s Western Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West, has quivering crescendos that create tense climaxes – both disconcerting in essence, and a really fitting element to the cabin fever like atmosphere. Cast wise, Roth and Jackson impressed the most. The latter his usual charismatic, show stopping self with his piercing monologues.
Overall however, Tarantino’s latest effort, at least in the context of his standards, comes up short. The picture had most of the underpinnings of a typical Tarantino: the chronological chapter structure; the Red Apple cigarettes; and yes, of course, blood and gore. Yet the dialogue, which is usually one of the strongest aspects in Tarantino’s works, felt too clichéd, with too many long, awkward pauses between speech, and on too many instances fell flat. Equally, the storyline didn’t merit the more than 3 hours of running time and if anything was indicative of the untidy script.
In reflection, it wasn’t a bad film and at points did entertain, however by the standard set by Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction – call it unfair to compare or not – Tarantino has again failed to meet the par he established for himself, and is still unwaveringly upheld for. Recycling old motifs, that may to some extent please, nevertheless The Hateful Eight is a film that relies far too much on dated thrills, and is one Western that unfortunately swaggers without due substance.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’).appendChild(s);