Quentin Tarantino is one of the most cherished directors in Hollywood today, one of the few auteurs who has managed to find both box office success and critical approval. Though in recent years his movies have lost some of the Tarantino magic- Django Unchained was two thirds of a brilliant movie but was plagued by self indulgence, especially in its final third. It was however his highest grossing film to date and it drew in several Academy Award nominations including a win for Christoph Waltz, his second for work with Tarantino.
After three years away Tarantino returns with his latest movie- his second crack at the western genre he loves so dearly, The Hateful Eight. Billed as his 8th movie (he counts Kill Bill 1 and 2 as one movie) The Hateful Eight is a fine return to form for Quentin, it is in fact his best movie since the turn of the 21st century, reminding us all why we loved him so much in the first place.
The film feels like a mix of The Thing, Reservoir Dogs, and a game of Cluedo. Set mostly in one location, an old wood cabin on a mountain the film is about eight strangers who seek refuge there on their way to Red Rock, a nearby town. These are no ordinary people though- they are bounty hunters and gang members and one of them has some rather valuable cargo in the way of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy. The man holding her is Kurt Russell’s John Ruth, also known as The Hangman. Accompanying the pair is one of the finest ensembles Tarantino has put together, which consists of Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir and Michael Masden, giving his finest performance in years.
As conversations heat up in the cabin it soon begins to transpire that not all is at it seems and someone in there is hell bent on making sure Ruth doesn’t take Daisy to hang.
One of they key elements of any Tarantino movie is it’s dialogue and this is one of his best scripts in years. The exchanges between the characters feel like full blown set pieces and the characters deliver their lines expertly. Sure it’s often vulgar and at times perhaps even too much but that’s what makes Tarantino films such a delight- he revels in the nastiness and deep down so do we. One particular exchange between Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Dern is likely to leave you needing a good shower when you’ve left the cinema.
There’s no denying that the run-time for The Hateful Eight is excessive- the cinematic release is 2 hours 47 minutes long but unlike Django it manages to make it work. The tension is expertly wound and then often comically unraveled and the mix between dialogue and violence keeps you from checking your watch. Sure the movie is slightly self indulgent but he has decided to indulge in all the things that made him great here and the film is all the better for it. Tarantino even manages to justify his fetish for the N word by having the movie take place just after the American civil war- a smart move which only adds to the brilliantly crafted tension.
Another key trait of a Tarantino success is its soundtrack and this is his best in recent memory- especially when combined with the score by Ennio Morrocone, which will hopefully find its way into the Academy’s hearts.
Verdict: Suitably nasty, sadistic, wickedly funny and perfectly executed The Hateful Eight is a fine return to form for Quentin Tarantino. Welcome back old friend, we’ve missed you.
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