Quentin Tarantino is the only filmmaker in the world whose films are advertised with the number of films he has made. ‘The Eighth Film’, in this case, The Hateful Eight finally arrives after the sandstorm over a leaked script, police outrage and Tarantino’s insistence to go 70mm film over digital. The final results are interesting – this is the most polarising Tarantino film since Jackie Brown.
Going with the homage style of the filmmaker, this time we get a cocktail of The Thing and Reservoir Dogs. The film opens with haunting Ennio Morricone music juxtaposed to a shot of Christ embedded in brutal snow. A bounty hunter named Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) sitting stop three dead bodies on the snow clad road hitches a ride from a stagecoach. The coach contains another bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) handcuffed to his bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). They’re all going to a town called Red Rock.
Enroute another passenger named Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) joins the coach and they shack up at a little place called Minnie’s Haberdashery which already contains a Mexican guy named Bob (Demian Bichir), Oswaldo (Tim Roth), Joe (Michael Madsen) and an old timer named General Smithers (Bruce Dern). Tarantino doesn’t find it too difficult to inject an air of mystery. Once the characters assemble at the haberdashery the atmosphere in the film is terrific. There’s no sign of the owner of the haberdashery and things seem to be a little out of place. Everyone seems suspicious and the film’s title pretty much yells at you that none of the people in the room are up to anything remotely good.
What is most interesting about The Hateful Eight, however, is that it doesn’t rely too hard on plotting – nothing much happens in the film for a really long time, but when something does happen it feels like a punch to the gut. The violence in this case feels earned, instead of being used for shock value. The real draw of the film is the cinematography by legendary DOP Robert Richardson. The exterior shots of the coach hurtling through the snow feel iconic, and the tilt shifts within the haberdashery are beautifully reminiscent of the good old westerns. This is the kind of film that makes a real case of film over digital.
As for the homage bits it would be fun to once again pop in the DVD of the film and figure out which films Tarantino has spliced together this time. Apart from the fact that a few people including Kurt Russell get together in the snow there’s little else it borrows from The Thing. And the fact that the film has only two locations will make it harder for the audience to spot the reference points. In the film’s rare lesser moment Tarantino gets self referential as the camera roves around the backs of the characters huddled together talking. A terrific scene that reminds you of The Exorcist, however, makes up for it.
In some ways The Hateful Eight is Tarantino’s Barry Lyndon. It feels very little like any of his previous movies. It actually feels relaxed to be point of lethargic, but the beauty in each shot is intoxicating. Some people are going to hate it at first viewing but it’d be regarded as a classic a few years later. And as always the violence is nasty but poetic; only the Coens can make murder more beautiful than Tarantino. It really is about time the two collaborate on a Western.