Set deep in the mountains of Wyoming is Quentin Tarantino’s eighth (supposedly, depending on how you look at it) film. The Hateful Eight was first announced a few years back when the screenplay was first leaked, much to Tarantino’s disgust, whereby he actually cancelled the planned release.
Bringing aboard again, the familiar names with Tarantino films, like Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and of course Samuel L. Jackson. (who is cast in Tarantino films like Bill Murray is in Wes Anderson films) Tarantino carries on his Tarantino-esque motion pictures, divulging in strong characters, blood and stunning cinema backdrops.
If only the same could be said for the first hour or so in the stage coach scenes, as Kurt Russell’s John “The Hangman” Ruth unwillingly picks up two passengers along the road to Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stop off point to Red Rock. In tow with Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in chains, he travels to the Haberdashery with Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix, (Walton Goggins) who claims to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock.
The first hour is entertaining if you enjoy strong characters, as that is pretty much is what is on screen. Four characters riding in a stage coach, conversing. Much of the film does continue this way as we are introduced to more characters at the Haberdashery, including Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), Bob (Demián Bichir), Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern).
I may go as far as saying the first hour or so is tiring. Due to the extent of the conversations that the characters embark upon, the film’s pace slows right down, making it drag. A positive to the first hour is that you get to see the stunning backdrops that Tarantino manages to capture as the coach travels through a snow-covered Wyoming.
(Potential spoilers ahead, tread carefully)
As the Major and General face off in a battle of stern words, the film begins to pick up. Major Warren coaxing the general into a retaliation is interesting, but all the while unjust I thought. However, it immediately quickens the pace for the film and begins the whodunnit aspect of the film and that thought process about who was in cahoots with Daisy. When this happens, the film becomes enchanting with the whodunnit element, something that I find is rare to capture on the silver screen nowadays, which Tarantino did masterfully.
(End of potential spoilers)
I don’t know how true it is, but I believe The Hateful Eight had a run as a stage play for a short time and I can see the appeal in this idea. This is emphasised by the constant things happening on and off the screen and the whodunnit aspect happening in an enclosed space.
Amongst all these happenings, on and off the screen, the score was absolutely fantastic. From the opening moments, to the silent night piano piece and even Jennifer Jason Leigh playing guitar. This was a definite triumph in the film and had a lasting impression on myself.
Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance was thoroughly entertaining whilst she was on screen as well, considering Samuel L. Jackson dominated the screen time throughout the film. The casting did a superb job, as is the case with most Tarantino films. That being said, I could not enjoy the character of Oswaldo and Tim Roth playing him. My feelings were maybe it was a role written for Christoph Waltz or had Waltz in mind for the role.
Truthfully, I did enjoy this film. But only from the big plot turning point and when the whodunnit ball gets truly rolling. The interior and exterior shots of Wyoming and the Haberdashery are truly stunning and cannot fault some of the shot choices that Tarantino included. Of course, with the nature of the story, the characters were always going to be strong and they are. And of course not forgetting the score that I thoroughly enjoyed throughout.
However, this doesn’t stop the initial feelings of slow paced stage coach ride. Tarantino at times got too invested in his characters, to the point of them telling pointless stories to one other. Admittedly, this shows great depth in the characters, but in a whodunnit, slow paced drawn out film, this wasn’t the time nor the place I felt.