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Samuel L. Jackson in THE HATEFUL EIGHT

This is the movie that was filmed, and for a limited period, projected in ‘glorious’ 70mm. I was almost tempted to spell glorious the way writer/director Quentin Tarantino spelt it in his revisionist history movie Inglourious Basterds, but better sense prevailed. This is the movie whose script was leaked, prompted Mr. Tarantino to shelve the project – until he directed a live read of the movie, and decided that he was excited again to make it. The Hateful Eight is in theatres now for Indian audiences to find out what the master has wrought this time.

What he has wrought is a tale that reminds us that we are in snowy Wyoming not too long after the Civil War and then proceeds to carry on for the most part from within the warm confines of Minnie’s Haberdashery. The eight from the film’s title are played by Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen. When John Ruth (Russell) arrives at Minnie’s Haberdashery with Daisy Domergue (Leigh) shackled to his wrist he has two hitchhikers with him: Chris Mannix (Goggins) who claims to be the next sheriff of Red Rock – the town that Ruth is headed towards, and Major Marquis Warren (Jackson). This means the other four are already at Minnie’s, and the thing that makes Ruth and Warren suspicious is the fact that Minnie is nowhere is sight and Bob (Bichir) the Mexican dude claims that Minnie went to visit her mother, and left him in charge of the place.

With eight feisty characters trapped inside the haberdashery by a blizzard the newcomers’s suspicions for the men already inside turns into hostility as secrets are uncovered and battle lines are solidified. Some of this stuff is vintage Tarantino, and some of it is new – and not necessarily pleasant.

My favourite part of the movie was the segment that goes back in time and explains how the four who were already in the haberdashery came to be there, and among other things why the door needs to be nailed shut. But that doesn’t change the fact that the majority of The Hateful Eight is a test – of one’s patience, one’s squeamishness, and one’s taste for dialogue that purports to be faithful to the psychology of the time but often feels like the filmmaker’s excuse to say hateful things through his actors and hide behind the “they are just characters trying to get the drop on each other” defence.

I didn’t buy it.

Quentin Tarantino claims to be a lover of film, and film history, and great filmmakers, and I have no doubt that all of this is true. But it strikes me that Mr. Tarantino also loves making movies that set out to push people’s limits. Pushing people’s limits can deliver interesting outcomes but I fear this time around, with The Hateful Eight, it is not going to be an outcome that Mr. Tarantino or his producers will be glad for. And it doesn’t help that he has begun to repeat himself. Not to give too much away but the scene on which this movie turns into a bloodbath owes its pivotal moment to the opening scene in Basterds. It’s not quite (yet) a crawl through the air vents but the man’s only made eight movies, and we are going to notice when he starts doing the same old, same old.

The performances range from committed (Leigh, Goggins) to alright (everyone else). The score by Ennio Morricone is evocative of his best work but there has been way better score in movies this past year. Mr. Tarantino, working with editor Fred Raskin is able to create some tense moments and really that is no surprise because it is impossible to deny Mr. Tarantino’s skill as a filmmaker. It is easier this time around though to question whether he’s made a good film.

I say no, feel free to disagree.