Sunday 5 June 2016

The Hateful Eight - a quick review...

What's it about?
Quentin Tarantino's eighth film (second western) in which a disparate array of ne'er do wells find themselves trapped together in a lonesome cabin in the middle of a blizzard. Someone isn't who they say they are, and with thousands of dollars worth of bounty at stake, tensions soon run high.
Who would I recognise in it?
Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Zoe Bell, Channing Tatum.
Taking a few cues from John Carpenter's seminal 1982 film "The Thing", QT's western is at times, more like a horror movie. Utilising deftly-chosen cuts from Ennio Morricone's score for that film, numerous scenes are afforded an unrelenting sense of tension and menace. As QT said himself, it is as if the blizzard is the monster swirling around outside, trapping the characters together inside. Indeed, Morricone provides QT's first custom-fit score - a sumptuous aural feast - while the tone of Carpenter's film bubbles under the surface. Both films feature a strong cast of characters, whose egos and suspicions clash ferociously. Here, each character is afforded much to work with, everyone standing out in their own regard. That said, Jackson, Russell, Goggins, and Leigh shine out in particular - the latter of whom sinks her teeth into the role with such relish that you can't help but be reminded of John Travolta's savouring of Pulp Fiction. Hopefully we'll see a grand revival for Jennifer Jason Leigh worthy of her impressive showing here...

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Just when I was starting to think "this is surprisingly light on bloody violence", buckets of the stuff started splashing across the floor, and from that point forward events spiralled into a tornado of claret-spewing gunshots. Suffice it to say, by the end of proceedings, Minnie's Haberdashery (the film's main setting) has received a new lick of paint. And yet, despite a few flashes of people moaning on the web about just how violent The Hateful Eight was, Django Unchained was more brutal and undoubtedly bloodier. Perhaps they misread the title as "The Huggable Eight" only to be roundly appalled? You never can tell with 'media guardian' types.

Speaking of the 'equal opportunities violence', what uproar there was (now forgotten to the mists of time and the latest bandwagon to harp on about) was quite selective. Leigh's Daisy Domergue absolutely goes through the wringer (she's no shrinking violet, mind you), and yet a scene of startling and sick-minded male-on-male humiliation seemed to be forgotten by the same keyboard warriors. However - a film is a film - the events captured on-screen are not real, they are staged. If you're going to get bent out of shape, do so over an act that was perpetrated against a real, living person. Film is merely a mirror.

The Ultra Panavision 70mm cinematography by Robert Richardson is, naturally, stellar. Exteriors are grand and sweeping, while interiors simultaneously constrict and expand the action. Slow burn scenes contort back and forth between the set looming around the actors, to two-handers boasting a sheer sense of tension that QT has now ascended to as a master of his craft.

A master he may be, but even masters can sometimes use a little discipline. At 167 minutes (albeit almost identical to Django Unchained's running time), The Hateful Eight does prove to be quite a slow burn in the first 75 minutes. QT is world reknowned for his dialogue, but there are lines dotted throughout where a touch of nip/tuck editing could have saved several minutes over the whole endeavour. Grand and impressive it most certainly is, but that doesn't mean it has to be as long as it is - but the length matters little once the film hits its stride, at which point The Hateful Eight gradually begins to gallop towards its sanguine saturated sign-off. As strong, confident, loquacious, and splatter-happy as you would expect of a QT film, The Hateful Eight is grandiose in all regards. Great.

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