If The Hateful Eight’s release had been beckoning in almost any other new year it would doubtless have dominated the limelight and the box office. However as 2016 rolled in ‘the force’ was very much elsewhere. It’s a shame that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has deflected the bulk of hype and media attention away from Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering because The Hateful Eight is one of the finest additions to his cinematic portfolio yet. This film has bags of class, big names and a gripping, constant uniqueness.
Eight strangers, one shack and a sense of imminent threat make this film.
That manipulation of viewers’ expectations is the real key to this film. The Hateful Eight bares its premise early and openly… Eight strangers, one shack and a sense of imminent threat make this film and as an experience it will be very different for each new viewer. Moments before the meat of the plot gets underway see the characters size each other up and afford the viewer the chance to do the same. Who could resist a prediction of what’s about to unfold?
Tim Roth returns to the Tarantino fold as does Kurt Russell and new faces aren’t in short supply either.
Having been a mainstay for Tarantino in the past, Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Jackie Brown,) returns to centre stage in The Hateful Eight as Major Marquis Warren. Warren is a controversial figure- an African American cavalry officer who fought on the side of the Union in the American Civil War and following a military discharge shrouded in mystery and rumour, became a bounty hunter. As a character he is hugely significant, brilliantly acted and becomes the centre piece around which the film hinges. This could arguably be Samuel L. Jackson’s most significant role in a Tarantino film to date, (and he’s played some big ones). The importance of his character makes racial prejudice an important feature, as it was in Django Unchained, and this time it comes draped in the colours of the Civil War. The casting all round is fantastic in The Hateful Eight, Tim Roth returns to the Tarantino fold as does Kurt Russell and new faces aren’t in short supply either, Channing Tatum is perhaps the most surprising of those. The cast provide a great mixture of the old and the new and give the film a feel unlike previous Tarantino favourites.
“One of them fellas… is not who he says he is.” A constant underlying tension and suspicion drives the film forward and remains immersive throughout.
Lingering opening shots of the snow bound mountain make it immensely clear that this is in no way following in the footsteps of Tarantino’s 2012 Western, Django Unchained and the film has been more commonly compared to Reservoir Dogs, but thankfully it evades any sort of recycling of atmosphere or material from any of Tarantino’s previous works. The reason The Hateful Eight draws comparison to Reservoir Dogs is purely the fact that it is largely set in only one room and is, in places, brutally violent. The parallels end there though and this film undoubtedly offers up something new and fresh in its devious style and masterful manipulation of the viewer’s expectations.
Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in The Hateful Eight is not just noteworthy, it’s career defining and ultimately this film just reeks of class. Tarantino is operating at what is probably his peak, and the viewer gets a sense that he knows it. He manufactures tension perfectly, makes potentially drab settings beautiful and tells this old West story in a commendably immersive and modern way. The Hateful Eight is a whole three hours long… but you won’t notice.
By George Storr