The Hateful Eight – Film Review

Quentin Tarantino rolls out another genre-splicing classic

Getting Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight to the big screen wasn’t exactly easy. First the Tennessee filmmaker threatened to quit after his script was leaked. Then, when he did finally decide to shoot, he chose the most awkward format possible: 70mm, not widely used since the ’80s. Next came a box-office busting disagreement with several major UK cinema chains over who got to screen the special format. Three chose not to show it at all and the film received a limited opening. Things weren’t any easier in the US either, where screenings were blighted by projection problems.

The film itself, thankfully, is less of a mess. Set in post-civil war Wyoming, it sees Kurt Russell as John Ruth, a battle-scarred bounty hunter trapped by a blizzard in a flimsy, one-room shack. Joining him is his uncooperative captive, the deliciously uncouth Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh in a standout performance). Ruth’s jolly task is to outlast the weather without getting his throat slit by the rag-tag band of western misfits he’s sharing the cabin with.

Safe to say, the story doesn’t end well for someone. It’s typical gore-overload fare for Tarantino – think a western Kill Bill crossed with a 19th century Fargo – and its bloated runtime risks losing audiences early on. What brings The Hateful Eight back from the icy precipice is its ensemble cast. The wiley Bruce Dern is excellent as a former confederate general and Tim Roth’s rib-tickling depiction of a quaintly English hangman holds the fort long enough for things to really get going. That thing, is Samuel L Jackson. His pistol-whipping, no-shit-taking disgraced war hero wrestles centre stage from Russell’s Ruth and doesn’t let go until the murderous, grisly end.

And what an end. The Hateful Eight hides no man from his maker and so brilliantly revives the tense, drawn-out vibe of early QT classics Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. And although there is next to zero reason for a film set almost entirely in one room to be shot in an extra-wide format, we’re left with a gripping and utterly ruthless thriller that is up there with its creator’s best.