A blizzard forces a group of four to take shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery where they encounter four more strangers. With betrayal and deception, the eight strangers realise they may not make it to destination, Red Rock, after all.
The Hateful Eight offers impeccable framing, mountain landscapes, opening with a snow covered statue of Jesus. This film is all about justice and executions. The film is broken up with synonymous Quentin Tarantino chapter title cards. With Outlaw Josey Wales and Spaghetti Western coolness mixed with Tarantino seemingly nonchalant, yet, diligent story telling The Hateful Eight partly plays out like a heavyweight Cluedo mystery. Escaping an impeding blizzard menacing Russell known as the Hangman and bounty hunter outlaw Samuel Jackson ooze charisma and the whole cast clearly enjoy the wordplay. With its few locations (Reminiscent of Reservoir Dogs), as the group are isolated at a stagecoach passover (incidentally including Dogs’ actor Tim Roth) it’s mostly reliant on the actors talents and script. There’s notably interesting flashbacks and a midway 4th wall voice over which brakes the confinement of the film up. Thankfully, the planets are aligned and all the elements like a jigsaw puzzle fit together in Tarantino’s favour.
Ennio Morricone score is perfect, but Tarantino also slips in a track and later a song performance (by an almost unrecognisable excellent Jennifer Jason Leigh) which surprisingly work considering its a winter set Western. There’s a fanboy moment in a snowstorm where they stake guide rods and Ennio’s score pulses harking back to the remote beats and paranoia of The Thing. It has a small cast ensemble. As the opening credits run anyone with an appreciation of film will have a inclination it’s a Tarantino film simply by its tight casting, from classic to cult actors. Many he has already worked with and some he’s prompted a deserving career revival. Samuel L. Jackson is outstanding with his Sherlock-like prowess. Walton Goggins is particularly notable. The supporting cast are great and include the likes of Zoe Bell, (surprisingly seriously good) Channing Tatum, Michael Madsen (also of Reservoir Dogs) to name a few.
It’s a fine production, packed with seemingly period authenticity, excellent costumes, props, right down to the mutton chops and facial hair. There’s plenty of historical social commentary, modern mirroring subtext and choice language that intentional or not will no doubt cause ears to prick up as the array of characters interact. Cinematographer Robert Richardson, who has worked with Tarantino on various film along with the naturalist lighting and setting gives the proceedings visual weight.
Lincoln letters, horse carriages, shootouts, it’s gritty, violent, hard hitting packed with punchy dialogue driven scenes. It’s edgy, naturalistic with poisoning, double crosses, twists and turns synonymous with Tarantino’s back catalogue. There’s also a memorable gross out scene with sick and blood, also severed limbs courteous of make-up veteran Greg Nicotero. There’s exploding heads and when the tension builds and shoot outs happen they have a brutal impact.
There are great character arcs and development but debatably Russell and Roth steal the show. It’s undeniably talkie but with plot surprises, fine performances and sharp writing, if you like Tarantino’s trademark style and Westerns in general it’s doesn’t get much better than this.