Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Running Time: 187 mins
The Hateful Eight is an American film about a group of travellers in the wilderness of Wyoming who seek shelter from an incoming fierce blizzard in a small haberdashery on top of a mountain. However, the people they meet there soon cause tensions to fly, as mystery and deception become rife in the confined cabin.
This has got crime, mystery and of course, violence, but it’s more of a film designed to be an artistic spectacle than a really impressive story. With stunning directing and strong performances, The Hateful Eight is always an engaging watch, but there are times when you can’t help but think that it’s all a bit too much style over substance.
Before we get into that problem, however, let’s talk about what was really good about this film, and believe me, there was a lot to like. Mainly, Tarantino’s direction, coupled with Robert Richardson’s cinematography, is wonderful to look at.
I saw the film in ultra 70mm Panavision (and I urge you to try and catch a spectacular roadshow screening if possible), and it was visually sublime. The sweeping panoramas of the icy cold Wyoming landscape are astonishing, and some of the long takes inside the cabin are just as impressive, so there’s no doubting that Tarantino is still at the top of his game when it comes to world-class directing.
The performances were also generally very good. Some characters don’t play as big a role in the film as you’d expect, and so those actors’ performances seem a little underwhelming, but I have to say that Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins and especially Jennifer Jason Leigh were all particularly fantastic, and really helped to keep you engaged when the story languished a bit.
And that’s where we come to the stick in the mud: the plot and its pacing. The Hateful Eight is a clear homage to the classic epics of the 1950s and 60s (i.e. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Lawrence Of Arabia etc.), and it does that job exceptionally well, particularly with its beautiful classic score by Ennio Morricone included in the Overture and Intermission.
However, the first half of this film, prior to the Intermission, is slow. At times, it’s almost soul-crushingly slow-moving, and it’s often difficult to really get to grips with what’s going on as the story seems to keep stalling, and, I’m not going to deny it, in the first half, I was struggling to really get intrigued in the developing mystery because it just felt like nothing was really moving forward.
Fortunately, that all changed after the Intermission. The second half of the plot is pretty spectacular, as we finally get more development and intrigue surrounding what initially felt like an extremely convoluted mystery, as well as a whole heap of classic Tarantino laughs and violence. There’s a lot less than most of Tarantino’s other films, but when it arrives, it arrives in a spectacular fashion, and really makes for an exhilarating run to the finish.
Overall, The Hateful Eight is clearly an impressive artistic piece by Quentin Tarantino. Visually, it’s spectacular, it brilliantly pays homage to classic epics, and it’s got great performance as well as a fantastic finale, but the slow pacing that not only made me struggle to get interested in the story at first, but also made the plot feel convoluted, was a big obstacle to make me really love this film, and that’s why I’ll give it an 8.0.