The Hateful Eight is a bum-numbing epic at 3 hours 7 minutes – but this movie holds the interest with some beautifully crafted dialogue and stage sequences all the way to the bloody denouement.
It could be argued that this post American civil war Western is an indulgence by director Quentin Tarantino in that it is a film with the intensity and intimacy of a theatre production – but it is shot in super wide 70mm Panavision.
It is an unusual and unnecessary experiment from a director who is known to favour richly visual compositions in his movies. This though, adds nothing to a film that relies on suspense and the tightness of its sets to deliver the necessary punch.
Format aside, there is little else wrong with what is an excellent film. The Hateful Eight delivers some excellent performances and some memorable characters, most notably Samuel L Jackson as Union army officer-turned-bounty hunter Major Marq Warren, Jennifer Jason Leigh as the shackled, potty-mouthed outlaw, Daisy Domergue, en route to the gallows in the custody of Kurt Russell’s bearskin-wearing, moustachioed mysoginist bounty hunter, John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth.
Without giving too much away, the film is set during a harsh Wyoming winter blizzard; a lone stagecoach picks its way through the snow-covered wilderness. Inside sit the captive Domergue (Leigh) and her captor Ruth (Russell). The fun starts after Warren (Jackson) and the instantly dislikeable red neck sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) join them on the journey through to Red Rock.
The storyline dances along and is framed within Tarantino’s now familiar episode delivery. The cast of players is added to as the group seeks shelter from the blizzard. At Minnie’s Haberdashery, a claustrophobic stagecoach rest stop, we meet a rag tag collection of fellow travellers, who may or may not be who they say they are, sitting out the storm: Red Rock hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), quiet cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Bob, a monosyllabic Mexican played by Demián Bichir and General Sandy Smithers, played exquisitely by Bruce Dern – who outstrips his performance in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska as a curmudgeonly veteran Confederate officer.
Forget all the ballyhoo about the film being overlooked for major awards at the Oscars, the academy long since relinquished its position as a true judge of quality filmmaking and just go and enjoy The Hateful Eight for what it is: a superbly constructed black comedy laced through with suspense, delicious dialogue and some beautifully realised characters.
The Hateful Eight
In cinemas nationwide now.