Tarantino’s adulation for cinema is widely documented, as is his obsession with B-movies, most notably the Italian Spaghetti Westerns. It makes sense, then, that his career should culminate with his own entry into the Western genre, and The Hateful Eight is that film. Lacking the sprawling scenery, Tarantino eschews traditional stylistic elements for something more befitting his own identity. The film is another Tarantino exploration into storytelling, from Madsen’s memoirs to Samuel L. Jackson’s johnson, and while the writing is familiarly impressive, the film fails to reach the dizzying heights of Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino’s debut (save for his writing part on True Romance) and most comparable film.

Departure from the usual affiliation with Wu Tang Clan’s RZA worked well; Ennio Morricone has done amazing work in the past with Tarantino – that he partly forged his legendary reputation in Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns only strengthened his claim to the picture’s score. What we hear is tense and atmospheric, relatively minimalist (for a Tarantino movie), and, simply put, perfect.

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In general, the performances were good, though three particularly stood out: those of Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walter Goggins. It’s particularly pleasant to have seen the latter graduate from his excellent performances in The Shield and Justified to a movie with as much perceived cultural significance as a Tarantino flick (no matter what the opinions, such a smorgasbord inevitably encourages debate among audiences and critics).

Speaking of debate, there have been conflicting narratives since the film’s release on its possible misogyny. For a director who has done so much to promote powerful women in film – particularly Uma Thurman’s Beatrice in Kill Bill – this is an argument Tarantino has faced prominently, particularly in the latter stages of his career (thus far). However, these claims appear to be unfounded in The Hateful Eight; indeed, Jennifer Jason Leigh is beaten black and blue, but she is an equal when it comes to the grotesque, exploitative violence portrayed in the movie. In fact, beyond her deceit, Daisy Domergue is characterised by strength and fearlessness – despite the fact that she is marginalised as the only woman in a group of ultra-violent men, and hand-cuffed.

Beautiful cinematography by Robert Richardson (Platoon, Wall Street, Casino) deserves a mention – the first forty minutes delivered a series of glorious shots; the slow motion capture of horses’ hooves breaking the surface of pearl white snow was quite magical. Once the action moved inside Minnie’s Haberdashery, the scenery was much less impressive. However, the decision the use the 70mm Ultrapanavision camera was ultimately justified – the wide lens gives complete coverage of the set, meaning the audience is allowed to see everything, and play their own games of whodunit.

(L-R) KURT RUSSELL, JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, and BRUCE DERN star in THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Photo: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

Many have complained about the length of the film – and editing has become an issue in his films, for sure – but it is a pleasure to hear a master at work, as Tarantino’s dialogue ranks with the likes of Linklater and the Coen brothers. Nevertheless, the film could be thirty minutes shorter as the pacing is admittedly very slow at times. It can be difficult too, at times, to see what he is getting at – any underlying messages about race or gender are lost in the cacophony of exploitative violence and general hyperbole.

Excessive ambition drives this film – Tarantino’s decision to try to re-appropriate the Western genre, the epic run-time, and the minimalist setting all signify his commendable efforts to create something truly defining. Unfortunately, the film never hits the heights first trodden elsewhere in his portfolio, from Jackie Brown to Pulp Fiction. Nevertheless, this film is a must-see for any cinephile, and certainly one of the best films of the past year.

3.5 / 5

Dir: Quentin Tarantino

Scr: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Chris Mannix, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, Dana Gourrier, Zoë Bell, Lee Horsley,
Gene Jones, Keith Jefferson, Craig Stark, Belinda Owino, Channing Tatum

Prd: William Paul Clark, Coco Francini, Richard N. Gladstein, Georgia Kacandes, Shannon McIntosh, Stacey Sher, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Music: Ennio Morricone

Country: USA

Year: 2015

Run Time: 187 mins

The Hateful Eight is out on Blu-Ray and DVD now