The Hateful Eight

20 January 2016 | 3:35 pm | David O’Connell

A distinctive auteur, Quentin Tarantino’s love of pop culture has allowed him to create distinctive films while harkening back to the previous greats of genre. For his eighth outing he once again returns to the Wild West in The Hateful Eight.  

While transporting a wanted criminal, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to her date with the gallows, John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) runs foul of a blizzard. Trapped in the shelter of a stagecoach way station, the group of eight strangers must survive the snowfall. Yet Ruth is sure that at least one of this collection of characters is not what he appears to be, and suspects there is a plan afoot to rob him of his bounty.  

Tarantino’s signature is certainly on display here, as splashy as John Hancock’s ever was. The Hateful Eight is a piece reliant on his trademark dialogue and characters to work, that slips inevitably towards a bloodbath of monumental proportions. This is certainly the director’s continuing love letter to the western genre, with huge nods to spaghetti westerns as well as the TV staples of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. It also contains all the inevitable controversy you would expect from a Tarantino film. Issues of race, gender and violence are all thrown into this heady mix, bringing an explosive tension to the script. Even though it is what we have come to expect from the director, it is still confrontational, although justified by the historical setting and the environment. Tarantino may not convey an accurate view of history, nor is he one to whitewash it clean.  

That setting is certainly jaw dropping. Filmed in 70mm audiences are given a visual treat as they can see the crisp beauty of the frozen white hell the stage coach is plunged into. Even when the film does reach Minnie’s Haberdashery and becomes locked in one location, it is such a richly decorated, period authentic location, that there is much for the eye to take in. All accompanied by Morricone’s relentless score, allowing the film to be drenched in atmosphere. 

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However this is a film where character is king, as each of the guests connive and dissemble to gain their chosen goal. Each guest has a back-story and distinctive character, and this allows the ensemble cast to really sink their teeth into the role.  Kurt Russell is perfect as the uncompromising John Ruth. Grizzled and as tough as nails, he strides around barking orders in an attempt to get his charge to her date with the hangman.  Yet all the actor’s give their best. With the one room, The Hateful Eight thrives off the tension and paranoia created. For all its gore, and beautiful scenery, this film closely resembles a stage play brought to screen, and its amazing cast bring that to vivid life.

Blood, beautiful cinematography, and hard-talking characters heading to a Shakespearean end. Classic Tarantino.

Originally published in X-Press Magazine