I remember when I did film studies and we started to study star theory. Basically, star theory supposes that if you have a big name in your film, you can attract fans of that actor to the film. Yes I know it’s bog standard theory, but it’s interesting as nowadays, that theory applies just as much for directors as it does for actors. Heck, it might even apply for studios now as we all seem to go to Marvel films even if the main star is the supporting actor from a cult sitcom. Anyway, one of the directors we get most excited about is Quentin Tarantino because he always provides something to talk about and The Hateful Eight is the latest.
The bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell, The Thing) has finally caught the notorious outlaw Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Machinist) and is aiming to bring her to Red Rock so she can get hanged. However with a blizzard incoming, he is forced to stay a few nights in a shack with some dubious characters while waiting for the storm to pass over.
So after making so many vivid films which have plenty of adventure, both in their visuals and their narrative, Tarantino is somewhat quietening down with this film. After all, apart from the opening thirty minutes, the whole film takes part in Minnie’s Haberdashery. Basically, this film is either a bottle episode like you see when a sitcom starts to run out of money for the series or even a play, you know, like those theatres that keep closing down show. And to be honest, that’s rather unique and interesting. There are plenty of films that have brash visuals and characters, most likely inspired Tarantino, so to see the film just focus on a small number of characters in one room and see the conflict just pop off the screen.
But if you are going to focus all your attention on one room, you better make sure all the characters are strong and the plot is gripping. Luckily for the most part, it is. It is worth mentioning that not everyone is fully fleshed out and mainly stay on the sidelines like Joe Gage (Michael Madsen, Reservoir Dogs) and Bob (Demián Bichir, The Heat), but the rest are in full focus and very interesting. There is plenty of intrigue with John Ruth because he wants to bring Daisy in alive, rather than dead like most bounty hunters would do. And then there’s the black bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) who’s not only just plain awesome, but also has an intriguing history in that he fought in the Civil War.
And all these characters are strengthened by a group of impressive performances. I had thought before this film that while Kurt Russell was a fun actor, he wasn’t a very impressive one. However my mind has been changed now because Russell’s conflict in trying to bring Daisy in is brilliant and honestly I now want to see Russell in everything. Samuel L. Jackson is again an impressive force of character, and honestly the fact he still tries when he has already sealed his legendary status makes me happy. However my favourite performance is from Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction) who is just delightfully over the top as Oswaldo Mobray. Honestly, in a film as dark as this having a bright spark like him makes things go much quicker.
So we know that the characters and performances are strong but what about the plot? Well, it’s very good. There is a bit of flim flam as they take a while to get to the shack, though some good character development happens in that time, but it’s very elaborate and as it gets to the actual meat of it towards the second of the film, the tension is palpable and film becomes incredibly gripping. Honestly, I love the second half of the film when the twist is revealed because I genuinely didn’t see it coming.
However there is one huge flaw which means this film can’t match up to the Tarantino’s classics. The length. This film is over three hours long and is the longest film I’ve had to review. Now this is fine if you can justify the length of the film, but if you are sitting me on a sofa for three hours, you better make sure every moment is important. It isn’t, there’s a lot that could be cut. While the sub plot between Marquis and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern, Nebraska) provides the best moment of the film, it’s basically there to delay the entry of our main characters into the shack and the big twist. And also there is a completely unnecessary flashback to show us what happened to set up the twist, even though it is obvious what happened. In another film, that’d be fine. But when your film is three hours long, any unnecessary scene is unbearable.
Even though I do like The Hateful Eight a lot, I don’t think we’re going to remember it as one of Quentin Tarantino’s best. Most of that is because while there is still of Tarantino’s clichés are still present, it’s a very different sort of film to the ones that he usually gives to us. It’s all consigned to one room and it is more like a play than a film, but it is a very good play with a strong plot, brilliant performances and a twist that does change everything and accelerates everything. It is a three hour slog, but it is worth it.