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Film Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight, billed as director Quentin Tarantino’s eighth feature film (out of an alleged ten he promises to make before retiring), is a violent, wintery, Western shot in glorious 65 mm. The story starts off with Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a bounty hunter who is picked up by previous acquaintance and fellow hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) while the latter escorts criminal Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the noose and jealously stakes his claim on the $10,000 reward placed on her head. Taking shelter from a snowstorm, the three hole up at a stagecoach station called Minnie's Haberdashery with an assortment of other colourful and shifty characters. Suspicious of the host, Bob (Demián Bichir), and irritated by an old, racist Confederate (Bruce Dern), tensions flare up and Warren and Ruth try to take control of the lodge but things quickly spiral into chaos.

The Hateful Eight has a very slow start but a far more exciting middle when it becomes clear that a murder mystery is brewing à la Agatha Christie. Annoyingly, at first too few elements are presented and then too many at once. This is possibly because the movie is split unevenly into six chapters. However, it is an entertaining closed-room murder mystery that even Sherlock Holmes would be hard pressed to untangle after the events of the film (I kept thinking that the movie would end with someone walking in, seeing the absolute carnage, and asking what the hell just happened.) Those who love Tarantino will know to expect ultraviolent scenes, lots of spurting blood, and a darkly humourous tone peppered with seemingly inane but also memorable chitchat. His vignette-style of editing and storytelling are also still present in The Hateful Eight. Some of his stylistic choices, however, such as the occasional use of slo-mo and the sudden use of a narrator in the middle of the film detract from the story somewhat as they jar the viewer out of the moment.

Luckily, Tarantino’s stalwart collaborator Samuel L. Jackson takes centre stage in The Hateful Eight. Jackson has proved time and time again that even with a simple story he can mesmerise an audience with his lyrical way of speaking, his trademark use of the m-word, and his unwavering, penetrating, and slightly off-putting gaze. Although the physically larger Russell seems to overshadow him in the first half of the film, Jackson comes back with an unpleasantly vivid story about humiliating a man in the snow and he gets to solve most of the film’s central mystery for the audience. Of course, the rest of the cast is pretty great as well, especially Walter Goggins and Jennifer Jason Leigh (who spends a significant amount of time with her face covered in bruises and blood and should be commended for that). But to be honest, The Revenant, which came out at around the same time as The Hateful Eight, was a far more striking movie, both in terms of cinematography and in expanding the genre of snowy frontier films.

Rating: 3 out of 5 letters from Abraham Lincoln

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