The Hateful Eight

THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Starring: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, and Bruce Dern. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Rated R18+. Restricted. (High impact violence). 187 min.

Provocatively titled, this American Western thriller takes place after the civil war in Wyoming, USA, and tells the story of eight people thrown together, after seeking refuge in a mountain pass. The film was voted one of the best movies of 2015 by the National Board of Review.

The movie begins with long shots of a stagecoach approaching through an oncoming snow storm. Its passengers are Bounty Hunter, John Ruth (Kurt Russell), who has chained himself to accused murderer, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) - wanted dead, or alive. Ruth is taking Domergue to the town of Red Rock to stand trial where "The Hangman" is to deliver justice. Ruth usually has a pile of dead people to deliver for money; now, he has a live captive to deliver.

The stagecoach stops to pick up two more people trapped by the approaching blizzard, one of whom John Ruth knows. They are another Bounty Hunter, black war veteran, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) who has three dead bodies to deliver; and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), who is the next Sherif of Red Rock. The four shelter in a residence, disarmingly called "Minnie's Haberdashery", where there are four others behind the door: a former Confederate General (Bruce Dan), a quietly-spoken cowboy (Michael Madsen), a loquacious Englishman (Tim Roth), and a mysterious Mexican (Demian Bichir). All eight have secrets to hide that unravel disturbingly, and the issues they fight over - civil war, revenge, injustice, social unrest, greed, and racial discrimination - are raw in their collective consciousness. All are engaged in acts of deceit which threaten the others, and the plot-line gradually indicates the truth of who the eight really are.

Each of the characters reveals their inner conflicts dramatically, and Tarantino depicts stealthily the tensions that fuel their anger and resentment. There are conflicts already evident at the stagecoach stop among the first who arrived, and the problems among them escalate dramatically as the remaining four enter, and the blizzard begins to rage outside.

The movie is pointedly about discrimination and racism expressed in multiple forms, and it illustrates contemporary concerns about modern forms of inequality. It is a thinking-person's movie for most of the reel time, but the power and force of the film begin to weaken as the film develops into a clever (but bloody) "who-done-it?". Despite its dramatic treatment of the themes of racial discrimination and inequality, the movie's depiction of women is particularly disturbing. For most of the movie, there are seven men and one woman trying to survive together at the stagecoach stop. Whenever, Daisy Domergue speaks - foul mouthed, vicious and spiteful, as the film depicts her -she is subdued by male force, and male aggression, and the abuse of her is relentless.

No film by Quentin Tarantino escapes the depiction of graphic violence, and this eighth film of his is no exception. The violence displayed is delivered brutally, and there are disturbing scenes of male sexual assault. Without a doubt, the movie earns its restricted R rating.

Its classification aside, there are several features that mark the film as quality movie-making. The scripting of the film is tight, and dramatically sparing, and the violence is embedded firmly into the context of the movie's complex plot-line. The cinematography is excellent, and the musical soundtrack (which won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score) reflects brilliantly the suffocating feeling the movie creates intentionally. But it is the nature of Tarantino's direction that makes the film so imposing. He is skilfully in control at all times, allowing the tension of the movie to build up with time. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the stagecoach-stop provides a compelling theatrical platform for the depiction of human and social unrest, and the device works effectively.

The film is quality cinema, but watching it requires a special tolerance for Tarantino's confronting style, and well-known preference for showing terrible violence. The movie is directed, acted, and photographed very well, and the three hours that are required for its viewing slip by absorbingly, but never calmly, or kindly.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Roadshow Films

Released January 21st., 2015


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