Monday, 11 January 2016

The Hateful Eight (4½ Stars)

Going to see a new Quentin Tarantino film is always a big event. This is his eighth film, as the opening credits tell us. Some people would consider it his ninth, because "Kill Bill" was released in two parts, but it's officially number eight. Quentin has already announced that he intends to quit after making ten films. His reason is that he says other directors have a career making many excellent movies, but as they get older their talent fades, and their legacy is marred by their last few films. He doesn't want that to happen to him. Does he really think that it will? Look at Steven Spielberg, who has directed more than 30 films. His most recent film, "Bridge of Spies", has received great critical acclaim, so even at 69 he shows no signs of deteriorating. Let's hope that we can soon enjoy the 11th film by Quentin Tarantino.

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the film was spoilt by off-screen drama. The film was shot in Ultra Panavision on 65mm film to be shown on 70mm projectors. Very few cinemas are equipped with such projectors. Supposedly there are about 100 cinemas wordwide, of which about 50 are in the USA and only five in England. A special version edited for normal cinemas was made, but the real version as Quentin Tarantino intended it can only be shown in a small number of cinemas.

I can't comment on the quality of 70mm cinematography because, like most people, I watched the edited 35mm version today. The problems for me lie elsewhere. In London there are two cinemas capable of projecting 70mm films. One belongs to Odeon, the other to Picturehouse, a fully owned subsidiary of Cineworld. The Picturehouse cinema wanted to host the premier of the 70mm version, but the distributor picked the Odeon cinema because it has a bigger theatre. The managers of Cineworld reacted with a temper tantrum. "If we can't host the premier of the Hateful Eight, we won't show it at all".

In an official statement on the Cineworld blog this was misrepresented. It was written, "We can confirm that the Hateful Eight will not be shown at our cinemas. Unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement with the movie's distributor". This wording attempts to put the blame onto the distributor, as if unreasonable demands had been made. The distributor countered the next day by announcing that the Hateful Eight was still being offered to Cineworld at the usual price for films. There was no reply from Cineworld. The fault lies solely with the childish behaviour of Cineworld's managers. Cineworld, the UK's second largest cinema chain, won't feel much of a dent in its profits. They can make up for the loss of the Hateful Eight by giving "Star Wars" a few extra screens. The only ones who suffer are the faithful Cineworld customers like me who have Unlimited Cards. We've been forced to pay money to see the film elsewhere. Cineworld has made no offer of financial compensation to me for this problem that they have caused.

The film is about eight people who are holed up in a cabin during a blizzard in Wyoming a few years after the American Civil War. Four arrived with one stage coach, four with a second that arrived later in the day. (There's a ninth person, the driver of the second stage coach, but he isn't included in the eight).

  • Samuel L. Jackson as Marquis Warren aka "The Bounty Hunter"
  • Kurt Russell as John Ruth aka "The Hangman"
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue aka "The Prisoner"
  • Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix aka "The Sheriff"
  • Demian Bichir as Bob aka "The Mexican"
  • Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray aka "The Little Man"
  • Michael Madsen as Joe Gage aka "The Cow Puncher"
  • Bruce Dern as General Sandy Smithers aka "The Confederate"

Though there are several sub-plots, the main story is that John Ruth is delivering Daisy Domergue to Red Rock to be tried and hanged. He has no doubt about her guilt, even though he only gives vague information about what she's done. In the cabin everyone introduces himself, but it's suspected that one or more of the other six assembled men intend to free Daisy.

It's a marvellous film that moves slowly with only occasional outbreaks of violence. It's a western, but it's not a typical western. It takes place in the days of the wild west, but with only limited rewriting it could take place in another country or in the present day. Unlike in Quentin Tarantino's other films, the characters are not fully developed. I understand the reason for this. The background and motivations of the main characters have to be concealed so that we're kept guessing up to the end. However well intended, this weakens the film for me, making me deduct half a star. I'll reconsider my rating when I watch the film again on Blu-ray, but at the moment I consider it to be the weakest of all his films.

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