THE HATEFUL EIGHT (UK Cert 18)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Music: Ennio Morricone
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
It’s probably not controversial to say Quentin Tarantino is a very strange creature.
He so perfectly fits the mold of the director who creates work filled with blood, boobs and racial slurs and insists “no no no, it’s ok because it’s satire!” or “I’m just pushing your boundaries!” that of course you’d lump him in with the likes of Eli Roth and his other imitators. Especially when you hear him in interviews or see him try to act like a total badass to paparazzi. Watch that infamous 106 Spark interview again; Tarantino should never be allowed to speak to black people again after that.
But Tarantino is the exception that proves the rule because he somehow always manages to back it up. He’s the king dressed as the pretender. Reservoir Dogs smuggled a deconstruction of honour between thieves in a heist film. Django Unchained is a brutal tying of the Caucasian power fantasies to the Black reality of slavery disguised as a cathartic revenge fantasy. And now, in one of his darkest films yet, Tarantino has turned his eye on the dehumanising effects of sadism and particularly racism in The Hateful Eight.
The theme of dehumanisation runs deep, both with every character treating the other like a sub-human and the audience repeatedly having their expectations subverted. Kurt Russell’s brutish misogynist thug shows genuine human hurt when he has a fairly obvious lie revealed to him, the beaten up woman who repeatedly gets clubbed in the head is a violent bigoted murderer, and at the halfway point in the film our supposed hero turns out to be one of the biggest monsters.
Like Django before it, what can on the surface appear to be indulging in the racism of the time under the safety blanket of satire is instead a brutal evisceration of our portrayal of the thorny history between white and black people. An often idealised and beloved time in the past is one where black men are hunted for sport and lynch mobs are mere causes, and Marquis’ words “I’m only safe when the white man is disarmed,” are unnervingly relevant. This isn’t just a film about a group of sadists; this is a film about a group of sadists who each believe themselves to be the one true hero in the story.
So, now I’ve analysed this film as an art piece, I can now take off my beret, put down my wine and stop being so classy, because this is still a film where you’ll see a man get his head blown off in a shower of blood and bone fragments and shout “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude!” If you’re a deranged sadist (like me) then you’ll love this film. There’s a bit that I refuse to spoil, but you’ll know when it comes; it’s possibly a career highlight for Samuel L Jackson as an actor and Tarantino as a writer, where you’ll see one of the most horrific things in a film, even by Tarantino standards, and cheer for joy. Oh, and on the subject of acting, Jennifer Jason Leigh has had an Oscar nomination for this performance but I think she should’ve just been given it on set.
The film is fantastically written (what Tarantino film isn’t, he arbitrarily decides what’s cool for the next decade of filmgoers with every film) though it’s not fantastically paced. There are a few scenes which serve little purpose than showing off the lovely scenery and Ennio Morricone’s score which, while solid in their own right, often times make what could’ve been a two hour romp into what feels like a three hour grind. Speaking of that score, though, Ennio Morricone is the best composer film has ever seen (and my lack of approval is why John Williams goes to bed crying at night) and this is him at his best. Deliberately retro and brilliantly suspenseful, the score fills you with a tension that makes immerses you in the world and puts you on edge for every moment.
The Hateful Eight is the first film I’ve seen this year, and though I was looking at my watch towards the end, otherwise it’s a damn fine start. 2016, you’ve got one hell of an act to follow.
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