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“Starting to see pictures, ain’t ya?”
Before production began Quentin Tarantino’s latest film was almost DOA. Following the leak of the screenplay Tarantino seriously considered releasing it as a novel, but I am certainly glad he didn’t. Using a combination of solid direction, fantastic performances, stellar dialogue, and a terrific score, Tarantino creates a masterpiece that harkens back to his earlier Pulp Fiction era. I only wish I had gotten the chance to see it the way Tarantino had intended, in full-on old-school 70mm.
The reason I mention Tarantino’s earlier work is that The Hateful Eight will undoubtedly be compared to his last film, Django Unchained; and while both films are westerns that is about where the similarities end. The finished product of The Hateful Eight has far more in common with Tarantino’s first feature Reservoir Dogs. Instead of relying on extreme violence (that isn’t to say it isn’t still violent by most film standards), and large action set pieces like those of Kill Bill or Inglorious Bastards, Tarantino opts for a smaller more intimate scope, relying on strong dialogue and themes to move the story forward. In doing so Tarantino is able to focus on developing his character’s relationships, undercutting every scene and line of dialogue with distrust and paranoia.
The cast of the film, as with most Tarantino ventures, excels. We get some great performances from some old favourites, like Michael Masden and Tim Roth, and some new faces in Kurt Russell and Walter Goggins. All give fantastic performances, chewing the scenery around them; but ultimately it’s Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh who take the cake. Leigh dives head first into the dirty, feral role of Daisy, putting a little bit of extra cruelty into every impolite comment she make; while Jackson revels in what might be his most interesting role in a Tarantino film to date, and finally gets to take center stage.
It’s also important to mention the real star of this film. In the same way he was the star of Sergio Leone’s films back in the 1960s, Ennio Morricone crafts the music of the The Hateful Eight. The score, a first for a Tarantino film, beautifully captures the old school western feel, as well as the isolation and paranoia of the setting.
Tarantino has only two films left before his supposed ten film retirement. I can only hope they are of the same level of filmmaking on display in The Hateful Eight.