Blood, gore, and laughter

The eighth film of Quentin Tarantino could not have a more appropriate name: The H8ful Eight. Within the first few seconds of the movie it is clear that this is a Tarantino film. A slow build-up accompanied by the discernible sounds of music composed by Ennio Morricone. The Hateful Eight, like the previous seven movies, does not shy away from crude humor and distorted depictions of violence and let’s be honest, where would a Tarantino movie be without those two.

The title suggests some sort of gang, perhaps much like in Tarantino’s first feature-length creation Reservoir Dogs; however, as the film poster already revealed it is more of a collection of extravagant characters. As a result of a blizzard, this group of strangers is stranded in Minnie’s Haberdashery, a halfway point in between settlements in Wyoming. Anyone who knows Quentin Tarantino’s work will be waiting for the critical moment that will break the ostensible peace between the travelers, but which of the eight will be the catalyst? The characters are expertly written in a manner that makes it hardly possible to feel even a  fraction of sympathy for any of them. This in itself adds to the suspense of the ongoing events.

The retro credits at the beginning; chronological storytelling; a role for Tarantino himself, in this case that of narrator; the trunk shot as well as the round-table shot: these are just a few things that make this Tarantino-movie atypical compared to the work of other directors. However, as with Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, Tarantino also shines a light on political issues. In this case Tarantino highlights controversies around race as the story unravels in a time period not too long after the American Civil War of 1861-65. The eight personalities include two bounty hunters, one of which an African American Major who, needless to say, fought for the Northern cause and is strongly opposed by two former confederates in the room. It is not difficult to imagine that this will cause some friction between the travelers during their involuntary stay together. The melting pot that is America is also emphasized by Tarantino through the distinct accents each of the travelers speak with.

The haberdashery where the larger chunk of the story transpires fundamentally consists of one large room, making it the ideal playground for a cinematographer. Cinematographer for this movie was Robert Richardson, who has collaborated with Quentin Tarantino since Kill Bill: Vol. I. The inn’s common room shows a myriad of small and large details revealed in the background of shots. Some of these details play a large role in the overarching story, but in order to fully understand these details we need the inside knowledge of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Major Marquis Warren. It is the camera that makes us aware of these small details which Warren uses to solve the mystery.

Tarantino is a living legend in filmmaking and he proves his brilliance in writing as well as in directing once again with this murder-mystery western in which well-written dialogue and carefully considered camerashots determine what is truly taking place. The Hateful Eight has a slow build-up, but finishes with a grand finale that will leave you laughing in your seat if only for the end credits song “There Won’t be Many Coming Home” by Roy Orbison.

4 Stars
January 1st, 2016
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