Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is every bit as exuberant and indulgent as we’ve come to expect from the director of Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained. His latest is a bloody, three hour post-civil war Western that revisits familiar themes of racism and the origin of modern America.
With its long opening credits, mounting score from Ennio Morricone and its frequent title cards, The Hateful Eight recalls early twentieth century cinema but it could just as easily be a stage play. The dialogue-heavy plot takes place in just two locations: a stage coach and a halfway house.
Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is travelling through a Wyoming blizzard with prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The winter storm brings an assortment of villains, military men and cowboys to shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery where loathing, greed and prejudice boil over.
The tense verbal exchanges are witty and entrenched with politics, delivered by an exceptional cast who revel in their character’s various hatreds and hostilities. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) is consumed with revenge against white southerners while Bruce Dern’s General Sandy Smithers, who murdered scores of black soldiers in cold blood, sits quietly in an armchair visibly incensed.
Loathing dominates but the dialogue is decorated with lies. Tarantino delights in playing with the truth, feeding his audience insider knowledge that turns surprise into suspense. But when the escalating violence finally reaches its climax, the brutal assault on our senses allows the messages to slip into the ether. Unable to rein himself in, Tarantino leaves us wondering whether the intricate exposition was really worth it.
VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ 4/5
Running time: 187 minutes
Images: © 2015 – The Weinstein Company