Ever since Reservoir Dogs in 1992, Quentin Tarantino has delivered one great classic after the other - from Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill to Inglorious Bastards and more. He's a force to be reckoned with when it comes to directing, a filmmaker on the top of his game. This year marks the director's eighth film, The Hateful Eight, and he has done it yet again, delivering yet another stunner.
Ever since I saw Pulp Fiction - when I was certainly too young to have been watching it - I have been a huge fan of Tarantino's. The film captivated me and, today, still remains as one of my all-time favourite films. Anytime the name Quentin Tarantino is attached to a project, there's lots of excitement. Every time he works on a film, it's an event. The reason is because everything he touches turns to gold. We've come to expect great things from him and he never delivers anything less. His latest project is no exception. The Hateful Eight was one of my most anticipated films of the year and it didn't disappoint. This is a dark, violent and absolutely incredible film - I can already see this being one of the year's best films and it has only just begun; kicking 2016 off with a bang.
Tarantino is known for his unique filmmaking craftsmanship and his love for old-school cinema; combining the two, he has made The Hateful Eight a throwback to how film used to be decades ago. In a time where modern directors are currently racing to get the latest IMAX cameras to shoot their film, full of big, glossy, modern technology and visuals (the forthcoming The Jungle Book was shot entirely on a sound-stage and is all rendered with photorealistic CG), Tarantino goes back to using cameras that were used years ago, filming his latest project in glorious 70mm. Not only that, but The Hateful Eight is getting a 'roadshow experience' in limited release - complete with an overture and an interval, along with programs accompanying the film too; like how films used to be presented and 'experienced' back in the 60s. It's a nice throwback to the golden age of cinema and makes for one of the most unique, memorable cinematic experiences we've seen in some time. This alone already makes The Hateful Eight stand out from the rest of the crowd; just the actual event of the release, let alone the quality of the film - which, rest assured, is very good.
The premise is fairly simple. After some stunning shots of the snowy Wyoming landscape and the title treatment - in all its iconic and recognisable Tarantino flare - we're introduced to the first of our eponymous 'hateful eight', Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), an infamous bounty hunter. Stuck in the cold, harsh weather on his way to the nearby town of Red Rock, he joins the bounty hunter John Ruth "The Hangman" (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) - who has a handsome bounty on her head. Along the way to Red Rock, they encounter and pick up the fourth member of the eight, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) - who claims to be the new Sheriff of the town they're all headed to. However, as the weather gets worst and a blizzard begins to tail the stagecoach, they pull in for a stopover at Minnie's Haberdashery. Upon arrival, they are greeted by four other people already taking shelter at the Haberdashery: Red Rock's hangman Oswaldo Mowbray (Tim Roth), cow puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), confederate General Sandford Smothers (Bruce Dern) and the caretaker of Minnie's, Bob (Demián Bichir). However, as the group begin to spend time with one another, they soon realise that not everyone is who they say they are and they begin to uncover a plot of betrayal and deceit right under their noses, amongst the eight.
After the film's script leaked back in early 2014, Tarantino almost didn't proceed with making this film. However, positive reactions pressed him into production. And thank god for it too because this is one of his best films yet. The premise is so simple yet it's so ingenious at the same time and Tarantino executes it dazzlingly. From the first frame to the very last, this is a thoroughly entertaining, relentless and compelling piece of cinema. It feels a lot more subdued and a lot smaller in comparison to some of the director's other works, like Django Unchained or Inglorious Basterds, for example. However, it is equally just as incredible. If there's one filmmaker that can retain your attention and keep you interested in 8 characters, in one location, for just over 3 hours, it's Tarantino, and that's exactly what he does here - keeping you engaged and on the edge of your seat from the start right through to the credits. He masterfully orchestrates such tightening tension throughout that will coil around you and grip you like a snake suffocating its prey.
The Hateful Eight relies very heavily on its characters and the dialogue and the interaction between them and Tarantino's writing is masterful here. Each individual character is so complex and so mysterious and the dialogue between them all is so riveting and just so beautifully well-written; not a word is wasted and every line has meaning and purpose. The dialogue feels right at home in this Civil War-era, so juicy and gripping whilst still feeling authentic and real. The banter between them is fairly humorous too and this is, quite surprisingly, a very funny film. However, it's also a pretty intense picture and there's a nice balance between the humour and the intensity. A monologue from Samuel L. Jackson's Major Warren before the interval is definitely up there amongst the best Tarantino movie scenes of all-time, incredibly tense and just so damn entertaining. It's a testament to how good the writing really is, with scenes of dialogue one after the other able to keep you so engaged. The characters themselves are so well written too and, despite all being fairly mysterious and despicable people, you can't help but root for them. The back and forth between them all is wonderful to watch. Each character has been so fleshed out and we get to find out so much about each individual in great detail, helping us better understand and invest in them.
The acting is remarkable too and the stellar ensemble all bring a lot of to these characters and really embody them and bring them to life wonderfully. Quentin Tarantino always knows how to get the best out of his cast and he does that here too; the performances all across the board are astounding and each actor brings a lot to their character and relishes in the sparkling dialogue and the theatricality of the whole environment - they all fit this style and this era remarkably well. The dynamic between this cast is so lively too and there is veritable chemistry amongst these actors, that strengthens their performances further. The acting is also very intense, given that we're in one location and the wide camera angles mean that a lot of the ensemble are on-screen very often, if never always at the forefront of the scene. Jennifer Jason Leigh is a standout, for sure, as Daisy Domergue; perhaps, not quite a strong female character but bringing a lot to the role, nonetheless - her performance subtle, especially as we head towards the gripping final act. Channing Tatum also makes a appearance too and really shows us a side to the actor that we've not seen before. However, aside from Quentin Tarantino himself, the star of The Hateful Eight is - by a country mile - Samuel L. Jackson. The actor is startlingly good and gives one of his best performances since, perhaps, Pulp Fiction - another Tarantino project, surprisingly. He brings a lot of charisma and nuance to the character and really knocks it out of the park, giving a performance that is definitely worthy of some awards buzz and attention!
Of course, since this is a Tarantino film, there's violence and gore and blood and guts aplenty and it entertains in the bucket loads. The first half of the film ends with guns being drawn and blood being spilt, just before the interval, and the second half follows up guns blazing, leading to one riveting, stunner of a finale. There's shootouts, hangings and arms being chopped off and it's very gory and very intense, indeed. It feels like a hard, bloody Western too - shots being fired from all angles. The violence is simple, in comparison to something like Kill Bill, but it's effective and it's shot gloriously indeed. In fact, this whole film looks glorious. Robert Richardson's cinematography is breathtaking and the opening shots of a Wintery Wyoming are absolutely gorgeous; even Minnie's Haberdashery looks remarkable. There's a nice old-school feel to the proceedings too and it looks and feels very much as you'd expect a Western to. The shots are impressive and immersive and the use of one location throughout gives this film a very needed and effective isolated feel, making the atmosphere a lot colder and more tense.
If there's any flaw to be found with The Hateful Eight, it's that, after a pretty pinnacle scene in the second half, right when you're glued to the screen because of the nail-biting tension, the non-linearity of the plot takes you out of the moment and kind of ruins the tension and the true impact of the scene. However, it's a minor flaw and doesn't ruin the film as a whole. Also, we've seen some dark themes from Tarantino before but, in this film, it gets to the point that it actually becomes sadistic. It's a fairly misogynistic film too, with only one central female character and even she is treated very badly and is consistently battered, taking very punishing ordeals from the other characters. However, an argument can be made that it all reflects this time period well. Besides, it's a Quentin Tarantino film and it's sort of what we've come to expect from the director so you'd surely know by now what you were in store for by going to see one of his films and, if you go in expecting this sort of stuff, it's not that big of a deal. This film is a powerhouse and that's certainly not going to stop it.
In the end though, The Hateful Eight is a phenomenal film. The cinematography is remarkable, the acting is astonishing and Tarantino's craftsmanship is elegant and of finesse; the execution of the premise handled so beautifully, like a fine stroke on a colourful canvas from a true artist. Oh, and the score from Ennio Morricone - one of the most talented names in the business - is a thing to behold. The overture is grand and epic and the score is menacing and ominous and just sounds so great, adding a lot to the film and the experience as a whole. Of course, the whole movie-going experience with this film is grandiose and unique and pretty special too, quite literally an event and one that stands out from most other cinematic experiences - a nice throwback to the classy, stylish days of film. This is a relentless and thoroughly incredible and enjoyable film to watch. Film is an art and Quentin Tarantino shows that with his projects time and time again and The Hateful Eight is another dazzling and beautiful masterpiece.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.