Tuesday 12 January 2016

Film: 'The Hateful Eight'

Quentin Tarantino's eighth film - of an ultimate ten, if he's to be believed. This one is stretched way beyond the point it needs to be, and is every bit as gory-grisly as any of his previous films, especially in the final hour of this 2 hour 53 minute film. Mind you, this was the 'shorter' version which I saw. In case you think that that might leave you feeling short-changed there is another print doing the rounds at 20 minutes longer still.

Set a short time after the American Civil War, the film takes its time to really get started. The first two screen-headed 'chapters' introduce us to four of the characters. In an oncoming blizzard a stagecoach containing bounty hunter Kurt Russell has Jennifer Jason Leigh as his prisoner who is being taken to a small town to face justice. The coach picks up another bounty hunter, a Major (Samuel L. Jackson) as well as the incoming new sheriff (Walton Goggins, a name I didn't know but one to watch) of the town to where Russell is taking Leigh to be delivered up - to be hanged. To wait out the snowstorm the coach stops at an isolated haberdashery store where is found the remainder already there who are to comprise the 'eight' of the title, including Michael Madsen, Tim Roth (with exaggerated lah-di-dah English accent) and Bruce Dern as an aged General in the recent war. But - and this is the crux of the film - is everybody really who they say they are?

My main criticism is in the long preamble before the story starts in earnest, well over half an hour into an already too long film. If the purpose of this extended opening was to furnish us with information which would explain later actions or motivations, even in hindsight, it took way too long to do so and, in any case, there's a lot of extraneous stuff there. 
After the shelter of the store has been reached the scene rarely shifts outside again for the remainder of the film, except for a couple of briefish flashbacks and one or two short action sequences.
The real tension only starts about half way through the film when questions start to be asked about exactly who each of these people really are. It does become interesting, actually very absorbing, as the audience is no wiser about the truth of everybody's identity than the characters themselves are. 
Being directed and written by who it is, it hardly needs saying that tensions are only broken through blood-lettings, almost entirely with guns - and some of it is very graphic indeed, some of the victims of the bullets' targets surviving to continue their confrontations even whilst bleeding heavily.

It's all very handsomely shot in Panavision's widescreen, now rarely-used, 'letter-box' format, with the opening snowbound scenes particularly impressive, and all set to a suitably ominously-sounding Ennio Morricone score. 

I haven't actively disliked any of Tarantino's films. This one is not, I think, one of his best, being over-indulgent, lacking discipline and, crucially, being needlessly over-long. But when it eventually does get going it did draw me in and from then on I wasn't at all bored, though some of that alertness was having to steel myself against witnessing yet more gore, usually arriving suddenly and sometimes not quite as expected. 
But on the whole, I derived more entertainment from it than I do for most films.....................................7.


  1. I can't cope with Tarantino any more, just too violent for me. Maybe my tolerance for violence has gone down now that i am an old lady! I agree about Walton Goggins, he is an actor to watch. He was just marvellous in the TV series "Justified."

    I saw Paolo Sorrentino's "Youth" at our local cinema yesterday, very quirky. I loved it.

    1. It's true that one does need a strong stomach to watch just about any Tarantino film, Judith, but for some reason although I tend to be repulsed by screen violence too I can take it from him because it's so obviously on a comic book level. Some may disagree. What I can add here is that there is absolutely no concession here that the prisoner happens to be female, which gives it an added layer of 'wanton' cruelty, especially in the perpetrators of the many acts of violence being amused at the effects of what they do. It's not a film for everybody, that's clear.
      Btw: I went to a 'Silver Screen' showing where most of the audience were as old as me or even older - and, as far as I could see, no one walked out.

      I'm not familiar with the TV series 'Justified' which doesn't, in fact, ring any bells with me. I see from his resume that Goggins has done a fair but of TV work. Perhaps we'll see more of him on cinema screens now too.

      Similarly, I didn't see 'Youth' though I do recall good reviews of it. One that passed me by, I'm afraid.

  2. Good review
    I am not a lover of his films....far too cold for me, no heart.

    1. Searching for a heart in this film, J.G., would be fruitless. There's no one at all with whom one can identify or be rooting for to come out on top. It almost seems perverse to claim to 'enjoy' his films, but if so then must confess that I'm a bit of a perv.

  3. I am with the other readers. I am not a fan of Tarantino, at all. I did, however, hear a snippet of the score at the Golden Globes the other night and it sounded intriguing. I'd like to hear it without the movie!

    1. Bob, I read that some of the music was re-vamped from unused material for the early 1980's John Carpenter film 'The Thing' (one of my very favourite of all 'horror' films, much under-rated, I think). I don't know if this related to the wonderful, menacing opening title music of this new film but it would have well suited 'The Thing' as well.

  4. I'm afraid that I cannot abide anything my Tarantino. He has always seemed incredibly over rated to me. But I'm glad that you were entertained Ray.

  5. Craig, it's becoming an eye-opener for me to see just how UNpopular Q.T. seems to be. I know he has his detractors, but I'm still waiting for someone to say that they like his films as I do. He's one of the few directors whose films I make a point of seeing, and I've seen them all on the cinema screen.
    Meanwhile, I'll wait on.