Tarantino films come with a promise of violence, blood, and self-indulgence – and ‘The Hateful Eight’ doesn’t fail to deliver on any of these points. The eighth film from Quentin Tarantino is high drama, mystery and western shoved into one shaky room, with blizzard winds of a 100 years of American tension blowing around it.
The title promises eight hateful characters and it delivers on that front too. Each and every character is objectionable to the point of hatred in more ways than one – they are liars, war criminals, murderers, sadistic, racist, misogynistic, violent. The world Tarantino creates is one without a moral compass and where every aspiration towards the good life is tainted. Instead there’s General Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) who, though seemingly the intended character for both Tarantino and the audience to root themselves in, achieves this status only by being the only character who can figure out mysteries and isn’t intensely racist. Warren’s still a man who is run through with moral corruption and with blood soaked hands, but he’s still the man at the centre of the spinning room that you’re meant to root for, if you can bring yourself to root for anyone. Samuel L. Jackson and Tarantino are famously good together and this is no exception, with Jackson being horrible, frightening but strangely warm, and always devilishly funny. Jennifer Jason Leigh as the prisoner Daisy is the film’s other stand-out performance, comic and disgusting and hugely watchable.
The film, split into 6 chapters and two acts separated by a 12 minute intermission is without a doubt a film of two halves. The first 3 chapters are long, perhaps too slow and plodding at times. Tarantino’s dialogue is strong but not masterful – this doesn’t reach ‘Inglourious Basterds’ level of gripping conversation (though later there are ‘Inglourious Basterds’ references and they are possibly the most exciting element of the entire film). It’s possible that the screenplay dips in reflection of the varying qualities of performance. Jackson, Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins are consistently wonderful, complex and compelling. Kurt Russell, playing John Ruth ‘The Hangman’ doesn’t shine quite so bright. His character, though being the one with the most clear moral thinking (however warped) is possibly the most hateful and watching him became a struggle. Equally the characters portrayed by Tim Roth and Michael Madsen are rather one note, despite the fact that they’re meant to be enigmatic and mysterious.
However when the first act is drawing to a close with an incredible scene between Jackson and Bruce Dern (whose role is to sit and be racist) that balances palpable tension with what is essentially a dick joke, the film picks up – and rapidly. The action comes thick and fast, and all the hard earned suspense starts to unravel, only to tie itself back up again. The second half is perfectly structured and, frustratingly, makes you want to have watched the first just that little bit closer. Tarantino clearly has fun using actually gasp inducing reveals, a flashback chapter, his own self inserted narration (which made me laugh and roll my eyes in equal measure) and Channing Tatum.
It’s fun to watch too, but the fun is muddled up with utter despair and a strange sense of heartbreak. This is a strange reaction to have to a Tarantino film, especially one where you’re actively encouraged to hate the characters, but it felt right all the same. It felt like a classic Tarantino film and an intentional departure all at once.
By Ashley Woodvine
Ashley is a 17 year old from Norwich. She loves Belle and Sebastian, Taylor Swift, dancing badly and porridge, mostly. Her favourite films include Frances Ha, The Royal Tenenbaums and Beasts of the Southern Wild. She has a very deep affinity with that bit in Inside Llewyn Davis where he stares at toilet wall graffiti that says ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’. Tends to tweet about her life in an over-dramatic way @heartswellss.