The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, USA, 2015)
I have to confess that the latest Tarantino opus did a great job of taking me by surprise. The Hateful Eight‘s wintry trailer looked great when it was released last year but it also gave the impression that the film was going to simply ape the content of two key snow-bound Spaghetti Westerns: Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence (Il grande silenzio, Italy/France, 1968) and Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent’s Cut-Throat’s Nine (Condenados a vivir, Spain, 1972). The Hateful Eight does feature the odd knowing reference to both of those films and all three films do feature a wintry mise-en-scene, an isolated location and a nihilistic tone. But, plot wise at least, Tarantino’s movie doesn’t really have that much in common with either The Great Silence or Cut-Throat’s Nine. Indeed, its quite novel storyline – which is greatly enhanced by the striking way that Tarantino re-embraces the use of non-linear storytelling techniques – made for a pleasing enough revelation. Most of the film’s extended dialogue exchanges – which are wholly justified by the narrative contrivances that effectively serve to trap a small number of characters in one remote setting – also work well since the contents of the featured conversations tend to be interesting and engaging while being expertly delivered too.
Another plus in the film’s favour is the presence of an original soundtrack score by the great Ennio Morricone. The classic Spaghetti Western cues by Morricone and others that Tarantino re-appropriated for use in Django Unchained (USA, 2012) often sounded as though they were out of place or were being used in an arbitrary manner. Those older cues are so iconic, emotive and powerful that it’s simply impossible to divorce them from their original settings and contexts and Django Unchained suffered as a result. By contrast, the content of The Hateful Eight is positively enhanced by the commanding presence of Morricone’s newly composed music cues. Other bits of business that I enjoyed were Kurt Russell seemingly channeling the spirit of John Wayne and odd shots here and there where Samuel L. Jackson was framed in a manner that was reminiscent of the way that Sergio Leone and the other great Italian Western directors used to shoot Lee Van Cleef. And Tim Roth was well-placed to provide an interesting enough variation of the generic figure of the Englishman out West while Jennifer Jason Leigh was suitably convincing in her role as the truly nefarious Daisy Domergue. All told, I’d be glad to see Tarantino engaging with the Western genre again some time soon.