Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film this time takes us to sometime after the American Civil War, following the story of a bounty hunter taking his prisoner through a blizzard on his way to collect his reward.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Zoe Bell, Demian Bichir
Run Time: 167 Minutes
Release Date: 8 January (UK)/Out Now (US)
A little history to start, shall we?
Following the initial announcement of The Hateful Eight in November 2013, the production was cancelled two months later by Tarantino when the script leaked out on the internet. A live reading of the script led to a reversal of the decision, with production finally beginning in December 2014. The all-star cast was assembled, and this is the finished product.
Tarantino has always been viewed as a controversial director. A director with as many detractors as people calling him a genius who never seems to get the full credit he deserves. Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, just to name a few, have all been viewed, criticised, celebrated, it’s always been a mixed bag when it comes to reviews of Tarantino’s movies. And this one will no doubt be the same, with just as many quick to the violence and run time as there are to praise the direction, script and film-making that he has become known for. Make no mistake, this one will have critics. And while everyone’s opinion is that just – and therefore not wrong – it would be doing a disservice if you do not put aside any preconceived feelings or opinions about the director and just view this for what it is.
Set to a masterful soundtrack by the legendary composer Ennio Morricone, the film does take it’s time to get where it needs to, but at no point do you find yourself desperate for it to end. With the film set mainly set in two places, the movie doesn’t rely on location variation, but instead a gripping setup, sharp dialogue that doesn’t care about being offensive, and a dramatic tone that only increases as the movie goes on, thanks in no small part to an amazing cast.
It’s undoubtedly an ensemble film, making it very hard to pinpoint who the ‘star’ of the movie is, but then on the other hand, to call one particular cast member the ‘star’ is to disrespect everyone else. For there is no weakness in this movie, and every actor involved plays their part perfectly. Individual mentions, however, must be made. Samuel L. Jackson gives his best performance in years, a role so far away from what Marvel fans are used to seeing of him as the eyepatch-wearing Nick Fury. When this man has a role like this to sink his teeth into, something more than a post-credits cameo or franchise-building exposition spot, the results are astounding. Kurt Russell’s performance is also something to behold; he totally steals the show in the first half of the movie. Indeed, the scene in which he reads a letter – he reads a letter! – may well be one of the best scenes you would have seen in any movie this year. But as good as Russell and Jackson are, as the film moves on it is Goggins who moves to the forefront of things. Chris Mannix is intriguing, with an increasingly-developing character arc that is so well written by Tarantino and acted by Goggins.
Elsewhere, Madsen puts forward his usual great performance in a Tarantino movie. It’s become a mystery of film that no other director seems capable of getting this kind of work out of him, however when his buddy Quentin is behind the camera, this is the norm. Tim Roth is just delightful as Oswaldo Mowbray, while Bruce Dern is succinctly and rather subtly wonderful as the veteran General Smithers. And while I continue to refrain from pinpointing a ‘star’ in this movie, final special mention must go to Jennifer Jason-Leigh. Her Daisy Domergue is cleverly used throughout as a glue that binds everything together. Playing a tough role that many top-line actresses could simply not pull off, an imprisoned, battered villain who spends a large amount of time chained to a man who has no problem throwing a punch – and elbow – or two.
At the beginning of this review, I stated that this was the finished product. And what a product. What a masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino has crafted a simply stunning film that should rightly be discussed as one of the best of this year; In a 12 months filled with superheroes and galaxies far, far, away, the final few days of a jam-packed year has played host to a movie just as magnificent. Armed with a strong cast, all performing at a level as high as can be, with a soundtrack likely to be as good as anything you have heard this year, and a unique directorial vision that continues to be often imitated but never duplicated, the 2 hours and 47 minutes that you will spend being taken on a twisting, thrilling ride is worth every second.