Here’s what I think of The Hateful Eight, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino what I saw yesterday (his 8th film – it says so on the poster and opening credits – I promise I did no research for this).
So what have we got? Let’s see here. Well there’s eight hateful people, armed to the gizzards, stranded in a haberdasherie/inn somewhere in the wilds of Wyoming during a blizzard, meeting in suspicious circumstances, some time after the civil war (in which at least a few them fought – on both sides), including two bounty hunters (one of whom is black), some dead bodies, a woman prisoner (not Laura Ingle) set to hang, a sheriff, a confederate general, a hangman, and assorted others. It’s a Tarantino film, and the subtitle on the poster (noticed by Nora with her writer’s eye) is ‘No One Comes Up Here Without a Damn Good Reason’.
No, no, it’s not a romantic comedy, historical saga, crime caper or subtle psychological thriller.
It’s QT – so you know what you’re going to get, but still. What did I think of it? It’s long and ambitious and set almost totally in the one space so it has a staged/play feel. I think he should get extra marks for the level of ambition (like those gymnasts in the Olympics who attempt very difficult manoeuvres), and apart from one period where the main group of characters first arrive at the inn (when the pace flags, there isn’t much development and the dialogue is flabby), it’s brilliantly shot, directed and written. And do we need more auteur directors like himself, Woody Allen, The Coens, Wes Anderson et al? Hell, yes. And are film scriptwriters shockingly neglected these days? Yes they are, Goddammit to hell.
There’s a great time jump at one point – really works well on several levels. There’s a surprising piece of explanatory narration. There’s his usual chapter construction. Brilliant ending – just brilliant, when I thought about it later. And wind. Lot’s of wind.
It’s a great cast and the acting is top notch – especially Jennifer Jason Leigh as the evil queen of the nasty crackers (who does brilliant Sissy Spacek and Michael Flatley impressions later on). And Waltor Goggins as the sheriff (okay I lied, I did look that up).
Samuel L. Jackson is playing Samuel L. Jackson and there’s Kurt Russell as Rooster Cockburn’s nasty brother (Jeff Bridges, not John Wayne), who likes to punch up Jennifer whenever he can, and Bruce Dern, and Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. Outstanding, all.
But alert (squeamish me)…
But: rape, racism (169 N- word mentions, I counted – joking), brutality against women, projectile blood vomiting, shooting the face and the top of the head off people and exploding torsos (I’m not sure how much farther he’s going to be able to take that) I find tough. Sorry, I’m an old woos but there it is. Now of course I knew this wasn’t going to be Bonanza meets the High Chaparral, and that’s fine and that’s the price you pay and you know what – it’s worth it. Totally.
The score is Morricone (his first western score since 1981 – look it up, I did – and yes I completely lied above), which has a brilliant tone development in the opening credits and scenes (grotesque snowy Jesus on a cross: check), with dark horns and moving percussions to enhance the huge stunning and sweeping snowy landscape shots. It’s quite classical in many ways, lots of violins and cellos and big loping sweeps. Which are repeated later in shorter bursts. And some excellent and Tarantinoesque tracks including a great closing number by Roy Orbison called “There won’t be many coming home” (got that myself, so I did, very proud).
Is it as complete a film as Jackie Browne, with a complex set-up, character development, charm, sparking chemistry, fine range, balance, wonderful Elmore Leonard crime story, a great ending and the soundtrack to end soundtracks? No. But that’s my personal favourite (also me and Pam Grier had a bit of a thing going once) and I know that it’s an anomaly.
Yep, totally worth it.
And no, there won’t be. Suck it up, I had to…