Ben Oliver

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The Hateful Eight

You only need to hang mean bastards, but mean bastards you need to hang.
28 February 2016

A bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) take shelter in a cabin during a violent snowstorm, sharing the space with a host of shady characters.

Upon release The Hateful Eight caused quite a stir with its unusual 70mm format. Here in the UK, cinemas squabbled over who could show it and the end result was everyone lost out. This is quite the price to pay for a film trying to open at the same time as Star Wars and it seems silly for a film that takes place largely indoors.

So to the burning question: was it worth all that hassle? Yes! It’s more than just a gimmick, the wide format provides a solid frame on which to build the concept - 1 part western, 1 part end-of-an-episode-of-Poirot murder mystery. Giving us such a huge scope in such a tight space is a clever move from Tarantino; we are constantly aware of every character in the room. In that sense it’s much akin to a stage play - everyone is always in motion, always in mind.

As ever the dialogue is slick, the violence is… violent and the soundtrack is on the money. Interestingly, Tarantino takes a more subtle approach to directing than usual. In that claustrophobic environment he pays close attention to every single ray of light hitting every single object, the snow billowing in through the walls and even the fog coming from people’s mouths in the cold. Nothing is ever at rest, even if the camera isn’t moving.

The performances do a lot of the leg work. Samuel L Jackson seems to always be at the top of his game with Tarantino, same goes with Tim Roth and Michael Madsen (although Madsen’s cowboy is probably the most forgettable of the lot). Jennifer Jason Leigh stands out the most however. She’s mad but smart, and doesn’t seem to care so much about her death sentence. You can never quite tell if she’s got a trick up her sleeve or she’s just resigned to her fate.

The film is too long and Tarantino likes to go back and talk about what just happened - it starts to wear a little thin. He just doesn’t seem to know when to stop and one can’t help but feel we could perhaps drop around half an hour of the film.

However, once again his infectious passion for cinema shines through. This is a beautiful, tense, surprisingly nuanced but hate-fuelled masterpiece of a Western, and one I can’t wait to go back to.