Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight, 2015, USA
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell & Jennifer Jason Leigh

"You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang."

Something about working with Quentin Tarantino makes Samuel L. Jackson the best actor in the world. You can practically see the sheer joy in eyes when he's able to deliver some Tarantino dialogue.

'The Hateful Eight' is Tarantino's second consecutive foray into the western genre after 2012's 'Django Unchained'. Tarantino clearly has a strong love for the genre and has packed his previous films with odes and nodes to the famous westerns that he has taken inspiration from, so his eventual arrival into making his own is a natural fit, and with his two films he has shown a great understanding of the genre, honoring previous tropes while creating westerns that are unmistakably Tarantino.

While labeling the film a western would be the easiest way to categorize it, 'The Hateful Eight' is another one of Tarantino's Frankenstein monster of a film which is a mishmash of various genres, in addition to being a western, it's also a compelling mystery, a bloody thriller, a captivating crime film, an intense action film, and even elements of horror, due to the inspiration it draws from John Carpenter's 'The Thing'. As per usual, Tarantino does a great job in tying all these styles together and it results in a bold piece of work.

The film clearly draws a heavy inspiration from 'The Thing', right down to the casting of Kurt Russell (and some memorable Kurt Russell facial hair) and a score by Ennio Morricone, as well as a group of snow bound folk. Tarantino attempts to create a similar tone to what John Carpenter crafted in 'The Thing', one of paranoia and suspicion centering around someone not being who they say they are. While it's most certainly not on 'The Thing's level (few films are) fans of that film will most likely get a kick out of this film giving a nod to that kind of storytelling. Another film that 'The Hateful Eight' reminded of were Tarantino's own 'Reservoir Dogs', due to a majority of the film being placed in a single location with characters conversing over a specific issue, while also utilizing flashback sequences (and the casting of Tim Roth & Michael Madsen doesn't hurt either). It also reminds me of 'And Then There Were None' and even 'Clue' due to it's occasionally funny side.

'The Hateful Eight' features another well written original screenplay by Tarantino. Although, on a second viewing, I don't think it's as strong as some of his other works. It lacks the memorable quotes and unforgettable monologues, and can feel a little padded out at times. With that being said, there is still plenty of great lines and moments, in addition to a solidly built mystery that generates plenty of intrigue, despite not leading to any overly mind-blowing revelations.

The direction is very good, with Tarantino creating a constantly immersive atmosphere, one with humor, bloody violence and various surprises along the way. Breaking the film into chapters was effective for such a lengthy film. The film can occasionally drag though, especially in the scenes leading up to the arrival at Minnie's Haberdashery where the extended sequence of the four characters in the carriage conversing about Warren's crimes and war record, while entertaining due to the four actors being amazing, could have been cut to make a smooth transition and not much would have been lost.

For my critiquing of the acting performances, I will go through the "Eight" one by one, giving my thoughts and my favorite moment of theirs from the film:

Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren: As I alluded to above, Jackson is never better than when he is working with Tarantino, as this is no exception. He is spectacular in this film and gives what might be one of the best showings of his entire career.
My favorite moment: Warren's story about General Smithers' son (as if there was any other choice)

Kurt Russell as John Ruth: Kurt Russell is my favorite action star of all time and just one of my favorite movie stars, his presence in anything makes me happy so I was excited when he was announced for this film. He's great as usual, with his gruff, brutal demeanour, superb comedic chops and majestic facial hair. 
My favorite moment: When John asks to see the Lincoln letter on the carriage.

Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix: Goggins is getting a lot of praise for his role in this film and it's all deserved. He's so damn great and the closest thing to a morally respectable character.
My Favorite moment: Mannix ponders a deal.

Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray: Roth adds a level of class to anything he is apart of and this film is not different. His funny and constantly entertaining. I just wish there would have been a little more focus on him.
My Favorite moment: The "frontier justice" speech.

Michael Madsen as Joe Gage: I just don't care much for Madsen as an actor, and outside of his Tarantino collaborations, I never had. He's fine here in one of his more tolerable roles but he was still the least interesting character on screen, in my opinion.
My Favorite moment: "A bastards work is never done."

Demián Bichir as Bob: I'm not overly familiar with Bichir but I enjoy him in this film. He provided some nice comedic moments and visually resembles one of my favorite wrestlers in Luke Harper, so that's cool.
My favorite moment: Bob playing "Silent Night" on the piano.

Bruce Dern as General Sanford "Sandy" Smithers: I love Bruce Dern, the man is a goddamn national treasure and still a mighty fine actor. He's awesome in this, as usual.
<strong> My favorite moment: </strong> "I just met these people, I don't give a damn about them OR YOU!"

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue: The best for last. Leigh deserved her Oscar nomination and then some. She's hilarious, terrifying and downright despicable in this. So great.
My favorite moment: The guitar scene

As for the rest of the cast, James Parks is brilliant, Zoë Bell has an infectious charm to her, and Channing Tatum disappointingly sticks out like a sore thumb and is definitely the weak link of the cast.

And how could I forgot Ennio Morricone's incredible score that should finally see him win a long overdue Academy Award. A wonderful, goosebump-inducing score that complemented that glorious opening credits shot beautifully.

For those who dislike the work of Quentin Tarantino, 'The Hateful Eight' won't do a lot in changing your mind. For those who love the work of Quentin Tarantino, 'The Hateful Eight' is an absolutle blast, a wildly entertaining film featuring a dynamite cast, an exhilarating screenplay, bloody violence and unpredictable twists and turns. Fortunately for me, I belong in the latter.

'The Hateful Eight' is yet another excellent installment in Tarantino's already iconic filmography.