Regret; to feel sad or sorry about (something that you did or did not do) – this was how I felt after I missed out on the midnight screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I was not going to make the same mistake twice.
On the evening of Januray 8th my cinema journey for 2016 began in some style. I attended the Special Roadshow Engagement of The Hateful Eight presented in glorious Ultra Panavision 70, probably the finest, most delicate, most detailed, and immersive cinema experience a true cinephile can witness.
While the technical aspects of Ultra Panavision 70 are the highlight of QT’s nostalgia, the souvenir program, musical overture, and intermission are all aspects of novelty I was looking forward to. Especially when the intermission rung in to the sound of a wholly American applause and caused a wry smile to spread across my face. As the hordes of greedy gluttons and bursting bladders rushed from their seats I enjoyed the mental image of Attenborough narrating on the obscure behavioural patterns of cinemagoers.
But getting back to Roadshow releases, they were not just some PR stunt, they were an exhibition, a show, a special event that very few could witness. So while the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino was a special event in itself it was made even more special by the fact that this was the first Roadshow Engagement since England won the World Cup in 1966. Much like the Jules Rimet, Ultra Panavision 70 is still gleaming.
Running at 187 minutes the Roadshow Version lasts a whole 20 minutes longer than the General Version released in cinemas UK wide as of last night. Despite this extra length and some obvious scenes of packed out Tarantino-rich dialogue The Hateful Eight is perfectly paced.
I couldn’t disagree more with the claims that it’s too long, has a confined claustrophobic setting, or excels as an experiment in vanity on QT’s part.
Slow and steady, introducing the characters in true Tarantino style there’s no rush to get to the hateful encounter of the eponymous eight. Much like Frank Capra’s Twelve Angry Men we want to experience the characters evolve, to breathe, drink coffee and shoot the shit in front of a roaring fire.
We know Quentin Tarantino is famed for his inimitable style, lyrical wit, sublime storytelling, and passion for film and it’s this last point that I want to start with.
The titular Hateful Eight converge under the roof of Minnie’s Haberdashery when a blizzard threatens to whip ’em all up in a drift of frozen doom. As John “The Hangman” Ruth makes his way to Red Rock with his fugitive prisoner and lucrative bounty by the name of Daisy Domergue he encounters a fellow bounty hunter (Major Warren) and obliges him with trade pleasantries and a cozy ride to Minnie’s doorstep.
Now, this may sound so simple but never have I seen such devotion to the work of a fellow auteur than Tarantino’s use of snow throughout the picture.
Akira Kurosawa is renowned for his stunning compositions and use of weather to manipulate mood and constant motion. Tarantino harnesses this effect to great results. Snow breezes in under the door, through cracks in the wall, a rush of cold air can be felt as the door blasts open and the claustrophobic darkness of the blizzard draws your attention.
Heightening the mood of a tense entrapment as the blizzard engulfs their unfortunate rendevous QT allows natural character development to tell the story as we watch the magic unfold. Through extremely delicate and deliberate scripting Tarantino’s storytelling has never been so neat.
Interestingly, as the stories of the trapped eight develop it’s the story of Major Marquis Warren AKA “The Bounty Hunter”, with a winning performance from QT alumni Samuel L. Jackson, that differs. Unravelling before us is potentially Jackson’s best QT character. Layered with brutality, suspicion, and deliberate rhetoric all three come together when the film takes a ‘whodunnit’ stance as tensions rise and Jackson delivers one of the greatest scenes of the film.
Yet, while the scripting is sublime in how it carries each character to their fateful destination, very much like a Reservoir Dogs for the ages, much is owed to the original score from award winning Western composer Ennio Morricone.
Chilling from start to finish Morricone’s score doesn’t permeate the entire picture like a foul unrelenting odour. But instead is used sparingly to build tension in the unlikeliest of places, making each whistle and taut string that much more terrifying. There’s no hero theme here, only terse twangs of heightened tension.
Both Kurosawa’s manipulation of weather and Morricone’s enviable compositions are two reasons why The Hateful Eight is a special film. It goes above and beyond the limitations of such a baron environment. In many ways the ill-fated destiny of The Hateful Eight is set like a post-civil war horror film.
Daisy Domergue AKA “The Prisoner” couldn’t have been better cast as Jennifer Jason Leigh but it’s Tarantino’s ultimate vision of her arc that brings her to life. Dressed in manic smiles and nervous anxiety her true humanism reveals itself in moments of beauty, but it’s QT’s decision to have her bloodied for almost the entirety that screams of Brian De Palma’s cult horror, Carrie. Only adding weight to Tarantino’s recent claim that he wouln’t mind directing a horror someday. That’s one horror I would see.
While Leigh cements herself as a firm favourite newcomer in the QT canon, alongside Channing Tatum, who was fantastic, the return of Kurt Russell AKA “The Hangman”, Michael Madsen AKA “The Cow Puncher”, Tim Roth AKA “The Little Man”, and Walton Goggins AKA “The Sheriff” are a joy to watch, especially Goggins.
His character is wicked. Not wicked in the ‘Witch of the West’ kind of way but the ‘Jungle is Massive’. His character appears timid at first, scrawny, freezing, lost in the cold, but these impressions are constantly on hold, never quite finding a footing and cloaking his character with intrigue.
Set after the bloody American Civil War that pitted North against South over, amongst other things, the freedom of black slaves, The Hateful Eight marks a continuation of QT’s fascination with Western tropes. Casting Jamie Foxx as a black Bounty Hunter in Django Unchained during the height of slavery in the deep south was genius, unorthodox Tarantino at his best. Yet despite Django’s triumph he was never truly accepted as a free man (excluding Dr. King Schultz), largely because of the manner of his triumph. But fast-forward some fifteen years and there’s an inherent bitterness bubbling to the surface.
Brewing in his black hating white privileged southerners, a product of their history and misplaced guilt, Tarantino spins an unseen image of post-Civil War attitudes that while exaggerated to the extreme prop up all sorts of questions. Hardly a reliable political commentary for the history books but it got us viewers wondering.
Quentin Tarantino’s Must-see lesson in auteur appreciation, stunning symbolism (including a ironic image of Daisy Domergue with angel wings), glorious vistas, and sublime storytelling The Hateful Eight very much plays out like a honed Reservoir Dogs with a unique whodunnit undertone and captivating characters.
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~ “Bringing desperate men in alive, is a good way to get yourself dead.” ~