Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Hateful Eight

Title: The Hateful Eight
Director:  Quentin Tarantino
Released: 2015

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Channing Tatum, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell, Lee Horsley, Gene Jones, Keith Jefferson, Criag Stark, Belinda Owino, Quentin Tarantino

Plot: Bounty hunter John Ruth (Russell) and his fugitive captive Daisy Domergue (Leigh) are forced to wait out a blizzard along with a collection of assorted strangers including bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and the local town’s new sheriff Chris Mannix (Goggins). However its not long before tensions between the group start to rise as it becomes clear that some is plotting on helping Daisy to escape the hangman’s noose.

Review:  Watching a Tarantino film in the cinema for the first time I always find comes with the same thrill, as those familiar yellow block front titles appear on the screen while at the same time introducing the film as the “8th film by Quentin Tarantino” once more reminding the audience just how important Tarantino views his filmography, more so as he continues to threaten us with a pending retirement once he completes his 10th film. That being said this film certainly owes a great debt to Samuel L. Jackson who convinced Tarantino to make the film after the script was leaked online with Tarantino choosing at the time to respond by refusing to make the film. It would of course be a decision changed by a script read and the aforementioned involvement by Jackson and having now seen the finished film I’m so glad that he did.

Clearly not ready to move on from the western genre after giving the world his own addition to the long running Django series with “Django Unchained” a film which was a much a continuation of sorts for that series as it was a homage to its director Sergio Corbucci who here aswell appears to be a key influence for Tarantino who at the same time seems equally keen to take his film making back to the simplicity of “Reservoir Dogs” by keeping all the action for the most part inside the walls of “Minnie’s Haberdashery”. While the western genre is far from a favourite for myself and probably placed somewhere just above “French New Wave” yet somehow Tarantino has crafted here a western that even those of us who aren’t fans of the genre can still enjoy, especially as here it is essentially just more of a setting for him to tell his own reworking of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” in much the same way as John Carpenter did with “The Thing” which itself makes for the other main influence at play here.

What is clear though here though especially with Tarantino’s much use of film over digital especially from the Roadshow presentations of the film which included an intermission and prelude both cut out of the general release with Tarantino believing that they wouldn’t work with your average movie going audience. A risk it seems he wasn’t willing to take again after the disappointing reception that greeted “Grindhouse” and which lead to the film ultimately being split into its separate films when it was released outside of the states. True this is all essentially window dressing, but it’s clear at the same time that Tarantino is trying to once more make movie going an experience again, something that he clearly feels is being lost with the use of digital over the more traditional use of film. The downside of course being that while the intermission has been removed, Tarantino’s narration remains reminding us of what we watched 15 mins ago, despite the fact the audience on these non-roadshow screenings haven’t actually gone anywhere.

As with “Django Unchained” Tarantino’s vision of the Wild West is once more a rough and dirty place and one in which the smallest dash of light and happiness can suddenly be dashed out in an instance, while strangers all carry their own agenda and should only be trusted with caution, a trust which is truly stretched between the group as they begin to suspect that someone amongst them might not be who they seem.  At the same time Tarantino is in no rush to tell his story as he spends the first half of the film cranking up the tension and establishing the setting, which did towards the end of this section really feel like the film was dragging itself through a quagmire before ensuring that he ends this first half on a suitably shocking note.  Its once we get into the second half though that the film really gets going and the violence is cranked up to suitably bloody levels.

I guess it should however come as little surprise that the film is exceptionally bloody and violent in places, as heads are blown off, bullets tear through bodies and the disgusting effects of a pot of poisoned coffee are suddenly revealed, yet at the same time while easy to consider gratuitous is still used at key moments to provide the right amount of shocks. The same can also be said for the large amount of violence inflicted on the character of Daisy which unquestionably shocking when we first see it can see be seen as justifiable considering how she is after all a criminal and in fitting with the period likely to have hardly been treated with the most gentlemanly behaviour as we frequently see here. Tarantino though being the maestro of violence he is though never seems to push things too far as might be seen with a lesser director at the helm. That being said the ending did feel perhaps more sadistic than I personally liked it to be and kind of left me wishing that he gone for the more bloody proposed ending than the one we got but it’s a fun ride until this point and seems like a justifiable end for the events which have transpired.

Unquestionably by going back to his “Reservoir Dogs” roots and keeping the action in one location here it frees him up to craft a truly memorable group of characters who are all distinctly different from each other, while at the same time the dialogue is arguably its most memorable since “Jackie Brown” which is only further advantage here when so much of the action is based around the characters trying to figure each other’s motives out before communication breaks down and the bullets start to fly. At the same with the cast he has assembled here being as good as they are really makes for an engrossing experience once the film finds its rhythm which coming as late as it does may mean that the film comes off perhaps a little plodding for some, even if it more than makes up for things in its second half.

Ultimately this is an improvement over “Django Unchained” and an enjoyable addition to his filmography even for non-western fans like myself, at the same time though I really hope that he decides to move onto another genre for his next film, especially when he continues to taunt us with such tantalising project such as “Wild Crows” and “Kill Bill Vol.3” though I’d be personally be happy to see him doing anything other than another western, but then I guess it all rests on him being able to get hold of enough film stock, so let’s hope that someone is keeping Tarantino a private stash.

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