Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

Title: The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth
Released: Dec 2015 (US), Jan 2016 (UK)


I must confess, I am not the biggest fan of Quentin Tarantino. I enjoyed Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, but I could never get into Kill Bill and the other half of his filmography has never mustered much enthusiasm from me. Though, with that said, I found The Hateful Eight quite interesting.

Essentially, it’s a story of a bounty hunter on his way to deliver a prisoner and collect his bounty, but – you guessed it – something gets in his way and drama ensues. What I found intriguing, though, is that along the way it develops into a whodunnit and becomes almost theatrical.

Half way through, Tarantino starts talking…

“About fifteen minutes has passed since we last left our characters”, he says.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this off-beat narration at first, other than to think it totally broke the immersion, but then I got it. The film is essentially a cinematic version of a stage play.

The film is comprised of six different ‘chapters’ very reminiscent of acts in a stage play, we have an all-knowing narrator offering important exposition, almost all of the film is set in one location, comparable to a theater set and the story is extremely dialogue-driven.

It’s unconventional, certainly, but it really worked and I’ll be shocked if Tarantino isn’t up for Best Original Screenplay.

33

I’ve studied theater and playwriting quite extensively at university and was very indifferent towards it at first, wishing I had more film classes instead, but before long I found my footing and was later surprised by how my knowledge of playwriting aided my screenwriting. With a play, you just don’t have the freedom a film has (particularly in editing). You can’t whisk in and out of scenes, the set may only change a dozen or so times and it’s difficult to show minute details, so you can’t rely on show-don’t-tell storytelling. As a result, you have to write some really great dialogue to keep the story rolling and your audience interested.

I feel that dialogue is one of Tarantino’s strengths and presenting the story in such a theatrical way with a limited set really allows his writing to excel. There is a lot of talking in The Hateful Eight, so don’t go in expecting an action romp, but the film doesn’t dull. It’s at times extremely tense, at others very emotional and surprisingly, also quite funny. Tarantino hasn’t missed a beat and I enjoyed the writing so much that I feel I should now go back and reassess some of his films I couldn’t get into on first viewing.

The cast are wonderful, fluently delivering the compelling dialogue. Samuel L. Jackson plays an intriguing bounty hunter named Marquis Warren and is – not surprisingly – a highlight, but I also really enjoyed Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins as John Ruth, Daisy Domergue and Chris Mannix respectively. Michael Madsen’s Joe Gage is the only character I feel was somewhat underutilised, but he nevertheless played a fine something’s-up-with-this-guy character. The exchanges between Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and Walton Goggins were some of my favourite moments, along with the “Close the door!” gag.

26

Despite being shot on 70mm, the film doesn’t boast copious amounts of scenery or panoramics, as it’s largely set inside a cabin named ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’, which the audience get a wonderful feel for. The cinematography is generally great and the lighting superb, though there is some heavy-handed imagery. Of course, the Tarantino blood and violence is also present. I have seen some label it as his self-indulgence rather than self-expression at this point and while things do get a little crazy during the final act, given the nature of the characters and their professions, I feel the violence is well warranted.

Ennio Morricone once again collaborated with Tarantino on the score. Sometimes I find the music somewhat distracting in Tarantino’s films, but this wasn’t the case in The Hateful Eight. The score was predominantly on-point, though nothing stood out to me as particularly stunning. Morricone was apparently pressed for time whilst creating the score and even used some left-over tracks from when he worked on The Thing. Music is always so very subjective, but while I feel it was used well in The Hateful Eight, I also feel it could have been much more.

All in all, I enjoyed The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s writing is ever-impressive and I’m glad he’s tried something new with the theatrical presentation. The music hasn’t bowled me over, though die-hard Tarantino fans will probably love it and despite the film operating very much like a stage play, Tarantino’s style isn’t lost along the way and it certainly feels like a Tarantino film. I don’t think it will go down as his best film, but it is certainly one of the better ones and definitely worth your time.

Best Movies of 2015

It’s that time of the year again — list season! This post is going to be all about my favourite movies of 2015 and my have there been some fascinating contenders. Last year I did my top five, but this time I’m going a slightly different route with my top ten, because this year there are more than five films I have fallen in love with.


30

Special Mention: The Danish Girl (Dir. Tom Hooper)

First off, we have a special mention, which goes to The Danish Girl. Initially, I was interested in this film due to the involvement of Eddie Redmayne, but it was Alicia Vikander who stole the show. I didn’t enjoy The Danish Girl as much as I thought I would—though it’s still a wonderful film charting the lives of two very enchanting individuals, through pleasure and pain—but Alicia Vikander was the film’s pillar and offered up much of its emotional weight. Her performance was incredibly nuanced and though Redmayne’s character was the one undergoing a transformation, Vikander was able to display a tremendous amount of inner conflict; portraying suffering and love from multiple angles. Her performance was absolutely one of my favourites of the year.


29

#10. Carol (Dir. Todd Haynes)

At number ten is Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, both of whom are delightful and riveting. Blanchett plays a motherly figure in an indefinite slump, after she has fallen out of love with her husband and is forced to fight for the custody of their daughter. Meanwhile, Mara is a lovable but lost young woman, who has her passions but quietly floats through life without leaving a footstep. The two meet by chance and gradually find their voids filled as romance ensues. It’s beautifully shot, with some tremendous and very subtle acting, where Blanchett and Mara communicate wonderfully with just their facial expressions. Plus the score is terrific, with a dreamy principal theme.


28

#9. The Martian (Dir. Ridley Scott)

At number nine is Ridley Scott’s The Martian, based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir, which was only released four years prior to the movie. I’m not the biggest fan of Matt Damon, but I’m beginning to ask myself why, because he’s completely absorbing in The Martian, in which he plays a wonderfully witty character. Much of the film is Damon talking to himself, but the dialogue was compelling and often funny, with Damon’s performance very emotive and powerful at times. Both the cinematography and set design are stunning and though a Martian dust storm would actually be more like a slight breeze, the planet’s surface was wholly convincing and provided some wonderful scenery.


27

#8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dir. J.J. Abrams)

At number eight is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Star Wars has a very firmly established universe, so it was easy to worry about a return to the franchise. The prequels disappointed many and fans didn’t want anything that would dislodge the continuity or take the original cast in unwanted directions. However, people seemed to warm to the idea once J.J. Abrams jumped aboard, with The Force Awakens ultimately becoming a welcome addition to many. The returning cast were honored well and the new characters filled the youthful void wonderfully so. The effects were impressive and the plot was engrossing, despite parallels with A New Hope. I was tempted to place The Force Awakens higher, but know that’s nostalgia talking and do recognise the film is not without its flaws, so it remains at number eight, but is nevertheless a strong and exciting return to the franchise.


32

#7. The Hateful Eight (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)

I’m not the most significant of Tarantino fans, but at number seven is The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s writing is by far his biggest strength and his dialogue is completely on point here. The theatrical, stage play-like presentation took me pleasantly by surprise and the script is both funny and intelligent. Prior to The Hateful Eight, I can’t remember the last time I saw a decent ‘whodunnit’ on film. The characters were gripping and brilliantly brought to life by the actors and while I thought the music was lacking in areas, the movie ultimately came together as a tremendous piece of filmmaking.


14

#6. Ex Machina (Dir. Alex Garland)

Just outside of the top five we have screenwriter-turned-director Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. This is a film that had an interesting marketing campaign—including an AI controlled Tinder profile—but went largely under my radar until just a few days before its release. It’s a film with dazzling intrigue, with Garland effortlessly keeping audiences on edge throughout. The tiny cast excel massively and are all terrifically memorable and convincing. Oscar Isaac in particularly was eerily compelling as tech genius Nathan. I’ve always enjoyed Garland’s screenplays and very much look forward to more of his directorial work, which will be Annihilation in 2017.


25

#5. Mad Max: Fury Road (Dir. George Miller)

At number five is Mad Max: Fury Road. I must confess, before George Miller’s latest, I had never seen a Mad Max movie. Unlike with Star Wars, I had no idea what Mad Max was all about and went in with a fresh mind. I’m glad to report that I loved it. It’s a no-holds-barred action romp, with a rather linear and uncomplicated plot that still manages to be tremendously engrossing, complimented by fascinating characters and superb cinematography and set pieces. Tom Hardy is captivating as he grunts his way through the film, but Charlize Theron is the driving force as Furiosa; a sublimely tough character tackled brilliantly. Fury Road is definitely the best action movie of the year.


24

#4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)

At number four we have Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which seemed to come completely out of nowhere to me. I hadn’t heard anything about it, never watched a trailer, but saw it on a whim one day and loved it. It felt largely unconventional and is—as the title would lead you to believe—less about a girl diagnosed with leukemia than it is about film fanatic Greg, who appears in every single scene. The first half was a little slow, but it really comes into its own during the second half and is the only film this year to have made me cry. I’m a sentimental little baby, but I’m sure the final act tugged at the heartstrings of many.


6

#3. Whiplash (Dir. Damien Chazelle)

Moving into the top three, we have Whiplash, which is one of those awkward films that half of the world saw in 2014 and the other half saw in 2015. Since it wasn’t released in my location until January and I reviewed it at the beginning of the year as my first movie of 2015, I feel it’s warranted on this list. It’s a staggeringly intense film, with both J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller providing marvelously physical performances. The editing is reminiscent of jazz and the sepia-toned cinematography is beautiful. It’s one of those rare films that comes together on every level; a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking.


23

#2. The Revenant (Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

At number two is The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Following the release of the first trailer, The Revenant became one of my most anticipated films of the year. It looked tense, emotional and raw — and that’s exactly what it was. Shot on location and only in natural light, the film has a genuine physicality to it that has been unmatched this year. The score is unconventional; no melodies, no central theme, but rather layered pieces which evoke the harshness of the film and its locations. It’s advertised as an action revenge piece, but touches upon so much more and DiCaprio commits himself so entirely to the role—even eating raw meat as a vegetarian—that I’ll be shocked if another Oscar nomination isn’t heading his way.


22

#1. Brooklyn (Dir. John Crowley)

At number one is the delightful Brooklyn. It has an undemanding plot (in that audiences will be able to follow it with ease), but it’s so fluently constructed and beautifully written, with many universal themes and drama with real weight and authenticity to it that I feel so entirely in love. Saoirse Ronan is marvellous as Eilis, a young woman uprooted from her dreary Irish hometown to the dreamy streets of Brooklyn. Infatuating audiences worldwide, she delivers—without a doubt—my favourite performance of the year.

Complimenting Ronan’s performance is some incredible set design, with the film eloquently exhibiting 1950s Brooklyn despite being shot in Canada. It also features a gorgeous score and alluring cinematography which evolves with Eilis’ character. Brooklyn is a soul-stirring film that grabbed my emotions and gave them a darn good shake, much thanks to the wonderful work of Saoirse Ronan and the fluent directing of John Crowley.


There we have it. For the majority of the year, I didn’t rate 2015 anywhere near as highly as 2014, but things really began to pick up in the latter half and some tremendous films have now come and gone. Looking ahead, I’m eagerly anticipating Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Silence, as I’m a massive fan of both the novel and Andrew Garfield (who I enjoyed this year in 99 Homes). Kubo and the Two Strings and Hail, Caesar! both look brilliant, too. Then we’ve got a horde of comic book movies, new films in the Harry Potter and Star Wars universes, along with two huge video game adaptations in the form of Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed. If those are anything to go by, 2016 looks exciting!

What do you think of my picks? Do we share similar tastes? If not, what else should I be watching? Let me know and I’ll see you next year!