‘The 8th film by Quentin Tarantino’. That sentence was blasted around every trailer and piece of promotion this film could get its hands on. Part of that was because of the coincidental nominative determinism of 8 and 8. The other part is because supposedly, this means that there are only two films left before the legend hangs up his directing boots and leaves us with his legacy. The Hateful Eight goes hand in hand with Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Inglorious Basterds as one of Tarantino’s best.
Full disclosure, I saw the 70mm Ultra Panavision version of the film which is longer and requires more ceremony than the normal theatrical release. There was an accompanying program, a 3-4 minute introduction by the manager of the cinema, an overture lasting 5 minutes and a 15 minute intermission followed by a recap voiced by Tarantino himself.
This was to set the scene as if it was an epic feature from the era of Ben-Hur, Gone With The Wind or Lawrence of Arabia and it really worked. The hushed silence during the overture was deafening as Ennio Morricone’s brilliant score played ominously in the backdrop of shots of the Wyoming blizzard. Speaking of shots, this film was a joy to watch. Robert Richardson was DOP and every single part of this film was shot to perfection, from the simplicity of a kettle to the sprawling madness of a gunfight. Tarantino’s obsession with blood is not lost on this film, although I’m sure they used more pints in Django or past films it feels more present here due to the confined spaces and small numbers on the screen.
The story is split into five chapters and, while this makes no difference if they weren’t titled as such, it adds a level of sophistication to the presentation. It also is a gift to film students who ever have to study this film as they have their essay structure right in front of them. Kurt Russel’s character is taking Daisy Domergue (Lee) to hang and has to stop due to a blizzard. Once they get inside he realizes that he can’t trust anyone and everyone is hiding something about themselves. His mission is clear, survive longer than everyone else.
Let’s talk about characters. Unsurprisingly, Samuel L. Jackson is really good in another Tarantino film along with a welcome return to Tim Roth and Michael Madsen, making their first Tarantino appearances since Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill respectively. Newcomers Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Lee, Bruce Dern and Walton Goggins are brilliant especially Lee and Goggins. It makes perfect sense having seen the film why she has received a BAFTA nomination for this performance. There is also a glorified cameo from a big star that I won’t ruin as it will spoil a large portion of the movie. Having said that I will say their appearance, fleeting as it may be, is unforgettable.
I mentioned the score earlier I just quickly want to say that it is probably the best score in a film for a long time. While people will point to Star Wars VII I will argue and say this is far superior as it doesn’t rely on existing music and themes to make the points it needs. Tarantino using a specially written score has never happened and for whatever reason that might be aside this was absolutely spellbinding and terrifying at times. I’ve already bought it and listening to it while writing this review. Don’t worry there are some existing songs here from The White Stripes and Roy Orbison.
If you like Tarantino then you will like this film. If you liked the opening scene from Inglorious Basterds (Christoph Waltz and the milk) then you will really like this film. If you watched Django and thought ‘I wonder what this would be like if it was more contained, longer (3 hours to be more specific) and had Ennio Morricone music in the background’ you will fall in love with The Hateful Eight and never stop talking about it. I am a member of all three camps and that is why The Hateful Eight gets my first perfect score of the year.