Dir: Quentin Tarantino (2015)
Much like the 187 minute 70mm “roadshow” version of The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino‘s 8 movie cannon can almost be looked at in two near equal parts; With its talky com-plaintive first half and its brutal over the top second. The director’s career and his craft really splintered into new territory after the fabulous and still underrated Jackie Brown. There were five years of silence between the formalistic Elmore Leonard movie and the comic book like genre cuddling Kill Bill. Odd then that this, a blend of of his first and last films, complete with an intermission, could turn out to be his most enjoyable since the directors aforementioned adapted crime caper.
Opening with a tense 7 minute Ennio Morricone overture we are teased into a beautiful yet loaded post American Civil war landscape, blanketed with pure white snow, peppered with opinion, racism and indifference. Perhaps a later version of the same hyper real wild west world which tinged Django Unchained. We watch, for a long long while, as a horse drawn carriage parts the powder behind an all seeing stone crucifix. Inside Kurt Russell‘s moustachioed bounty hunter John Ruth is escorting a black-eyed Daisy Domergue (a spectacular Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her fateful noose. The pair’s driver O.B (James Parks) happens upon a chilly ex-union soldier (Samuel L. Jackson) at top a heap of frozen bodies and a redneck black and white seeing sheriff (Walton Goggins) in two fabulously wordy pick-ups. The four (nigh, five) of them continue to a popular stop gap on the trail; Minnie’s Haberdashery, where a final four make up Tarantino’s miscounted eight.
Michael Madson‘s quiet scribe, Tim Roth‘s theatrical Englishman, Bruce Dern‘s “seen it all” veteran and Demián Bichir‘s Mexican stable hand await inside the cabin. Wondering who they are and what they are doing there makes the whole thing into a wonderful whodunit of sorts, splitting the audiences sympathetic thoughts of the lose “protagonist” somewhere between Russell and Jackson. If, of course there could be such a thing in a Tarantino flick. As the night sets in and we reach the middle of QT’s longest effort yet, it’s an old-timey cinematic tradition which makes it really great.
Using the intermission much like he did at the finale of Kill Bill Vol 1. like a soap opera cliffhanger, we are there after plunged into an entirely different film altogether. Using the curtain fall brilliantly he whips up a frantic, focus pulling whodunit while the audience is refilling their popcorn; It’s Columbo by way of Sam Peckinpah but everything is filled to the brim with Tarantino ticks; There’s flashbacks, left field music choices (The White Stripes‘ Apple Blossom cutting out of the speakers was a joyous surprise) and plenty of crimson red.
As was the director’s hope the experience in the cinema makes The Hateful Eight. Robert Richardon‘s ultra wide cinematography is a joy; Not only making the Colorado mountains look bigger than ever but somehow managing to make the fateful setting claustrophobic as Tarantino turns up the heat on a pretty political potboiler scenario. The comedy is also at the fore, in fact it’s a wonder that there was any furniture left at all with all the scenery chewing going on. Out of it all comes Jennifer Jason Leigh, pulling off a miraculous thing in Daisy Domergue; Somehow ending up as the most snarling, dead eyed savage in a pretty mean pack of snarling dead-eyed savages and Tarantino, much like her captor, pulls no punches.
Though not without its flaws (a misjudged flashback told by Sam Jackson to the brilliant Bruce Dern is perhaps the most awkward) they are so few and far between that its hard to see past the brass balls of it all. Especially when the race tensions and the political commentary evolve along with Goggin’s hate-filled sheriff character into something much more dark and disturbing for modern American in terms of both race and gender. If the film maker, like he claims, only has two more up his sleeve, The Hateful Eight is a great final sign post to where he and his cinematic universe may end up.