Extra Cinema: The Hateful Eight

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A common complaint about Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds, is that the entire movie isn’t more like the opening scene.

It begins with an SS officer so creepily nice that you know it ain’t going to end well, interrogating a terrified French peasant. The scene is uncharacteristically mature for Tarantino, all insinuation and veiled menace, instead of the obscenity and gore that usually dominate the filmmaker’s work.

Of course it ends with bloodshed, but it’s sparse. If you thought that Tarantino had changed his ways, fear not it turns out he was saving it for his latest film.

Hateful Eight brings together eight people snowed-in in the Wyoming wilderness. The Civil War is looming, and disagreements over North v South, black v white are still raw.

Violence seems inevitable, since it bubbles under the surface of every terse exchange, but Tarantino takes his time in getting to the fallout.

The obscenities and race-baiting come thick and fast when bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) meets Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) on the road to a town called Red Rock. Warren has valuable corpses to cash in; Ruth has captive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to hand over to the hangman.

Before long, they meet wanderer (Walton Goggins), a former Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a quiet cowboy (Michael Madsen), a flamboyant Englishman (Tim Roth), and a Mexican (Demián Bichir).

Squabbles break out, back stories emerge and as the film moves indoors, it gets increasingly claustrophobic.

For over three hours, the colourful characters bait, and bully each other, but it’s about the power of words that provoke or soothe, incite violence or prevent it that’s the film’s secret weapon.

We’ve had Tarantino’s gleeful gore for more than two decades, and if he really does decide to retire, here’s hoping there’s more blood spilt first.