A film review: 'The Hateful Eight' loves each other!

Origin: United States · Language: English
Director & writer: Quentin Tarantino
Genres: Western, mystery  
Release: December 25, 2015

Casts: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell,
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins,
Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen,
Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum

More info: IMDb

After being a long time Tarantino fan and going through the excruciating wait to see his eighth film in local cinemas (I didn't really get why it didn't reach our shores when the equally sadistic Django Unchained was actually shown here) which he initially refused to make, I finally decided to review one of his films after watching it through illegal means, and it has to be The Hateful Eight. Oh, Quentin. Eight's full title just had to be as cheeky as your attitude towards your love with cinema: your eighth film had to be called The Hateful Eight

After abandoning the non-linear approach to storytelling since Kill Bill, Tarantino decided that it is his next Western film that should get that treatment again. And as with most of his flicks, expect to see his film appreciation getting jizzed all over the snowy landscape outside the cabin where the titular Eight mingle.

Oh, this review is SPOILER-FREE. So, don't be afraid to read on!

Here's the story: It is sometime after the Civil War. En route to the town of Red Rock, the journey of John "The Hangman" Ruth (Russell) to witness the hanging of his bounty Daisy "The Prisoner" Domergue (Leigh) is interrupted by an incoming blizzard and two strangers: Major Marquis "The Bounty Hunter" Warren (Jackson) and Chris "The Sheriff" Mannix (Goggins). The reluctant quartet then seek refuge in Minnie's Haberdashery before proceeding to their intended destination. But the lodge was not empty; there reside four more inhabitants by the names of  Joe "The Cowpuncher" Gage (Madsen), Oswaldo "The Little Man" Mobray (Roth), Colonel Sanford "Sandy" Smithers a.k.a. "The Confederate" (Dern) and Señor Bob a.k.a. "The Mexican" (Bichir); hence, The Hateful Eight now completed, and shit happens.

As I have reiterated earlier, this film sees the return of a jumbled up order of telling a story, although not as complex as you would expect from Tarantino's earlier works. However, despite the less confusing timeline, the film's vibe and structure actually harkened back to Tarantino's debut and not his prior films from Inglourious Basterds and above. But unlike  Reservoir Dogs' structure which is made to have its timeline in disarray as a way to mask its minuscule budget, Eight uses its considerably higher budget to good use by using vast and beautifully shot snowy mountain scape and dense mise-en-scene of the stopover's interior to justify the need for the characters to rendezvous at the cabin which is quite roomy yet claustrophobic at the same time due to their strong mistrust towards one another. I mean, what could possibly the eight total strangers with firearms locked up in a shed could possibly have in common, right? And how could Tarantino fuck up a gathering of the one chance these characters will ever have to communicate with each other without any tension whatsoever? You have to watch to find out how could he mess up something like this that could have a 'normal' ending... because 'normal' is not a word in Tarantino's school of filmmaking.

On with the music. Good lord! Tarantino finally stops using existing movie soundtrack to accompany his narratives by enlisting the legendary Ennio Morricone to compose an entirely new and original score for The Hateful Eight... and it's all freaking good! While the iconic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme and his Spaghetti Western works gives off a very haunting chill, the scores in The Hateful Eight also gives that and more, by making it akin to horror films, especially as it gets unsettling between the eight strangers.

Lastly, the performances. It's amazing how he - in typical Tarantino fashion - managed to captivate audiences with a film that's mostly talking (with surprisingly little to absent pop culture quips, where in its place are probably historical references or allusions to past events of sorts) for three hours (two hours and forty-five minutes for the general release version, which I watched), and set it in a single location... and hold off his signature brutal bloodshed until the plot tells it to appear. As usual, this is due to the lyricism and impeccable timing of his characters' dialogues and overall screenplay which is made as the perfect testing grounds for the players to prolong the plot in the most immersive ways. Here are my takes on most of them:
  • Samuel L. Jackson, Tarantino's most frequent collaborator, nailed his role yet again, this time as Major Marquis who more or less channeled his inner Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction in one particularly important scene which I won't spoil for ya. 
  • Kurt Russell of the disappointing Death Proof fame has redeemed himself in this one as a no-nonsense bounty hunter who has trust issues with everyone except Major Marquis. 
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh delivers a very subtle acting for her Daisy Domergue character who is one of the possible culprit that triggers uneasiness between the eight.
  • Tim Roth! Man! His demeanour and appearance is unmistakably Christoph Waltz's Dr. King Schultz from Django Unchained... only... more British! I really think I can't tell the difference even if they swapped Waltz with Roth when playing Oswaldo, like how swappable Josh Dallas is (seriously, who IS this guy?) with Zachary Levi as Fandral, one of The Warrior's Three in Marvel Studios' Thor: The Dark World. In other words, it's a rather spot on Dr. King Schultz impersonation by Roth. That is kind of disappointing really. I think sticking with Waltz for this character should be fine.
  • Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix is a totally different ballpark from his minor role in Django Unchained, despite having a similarly unpleasant personality that slowly fades away as the film progresses.
  • Channing Tatum, a cast member whom I did not anticipate his involvement in a goddamn Tarantino movie like at all, delivers a very sympathetic character who has a very sympathetic outcome. Yes. Very sympathetic.
  • The rest of the Eight (Bruce Dern's Sandy Smithers, Demián Bichir's Bob [his random playing of Silent Night on piano was kinda awesome though], and Michael Madsen's Joe Gage) are just equally good, save for the extras who are just there... except for Zoë Bell. I felt intrigued when I saw her in Death Proof, but she looks so adorable as Six-Horse Judy... because she spoke in native Kiwi accent. But it's a very, very minor role, sadly.

And that wraps it up. One-liners, check. Profanity, check. Blood squibs, check. Unpredictability, check.  What you love from Tarantino from his independent heyday and what he always does, is all here. If you are one of the Quentin Tarantino-atheists who lost faith in him, watch The Hateful Eight, and you will believe again. The DJ is back! An awesome return to his own self after the whole Classical Hollywood Narrative shit (that are STILL spectacular... except for Death Proof)! Highly recommended!

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