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Simmering violence

Stills from The Hateful Eight .- Photos: Special arrangement  

The first half of The Hateful Eight is unusually quiet for a Quentin Tarantino movie. Yes, it has an overture, an intermission, and runs for a little over three hours like the classic feature film presentation in the old days. That’s slightly odd in a film that, like all Tarantino movies, wears violence like a badge of cool. There is little blood and not a single death. Not even a gunshot. We don’t speculate why. Here are eight potentially dangerous and highly unreliable characters with dubious pasts stuck at an inn in the Andes Mountains.

The advent of a blizzard means they are trapped inside for three days. We know it’s a hothouse waiting to explode, a feeling suggested early on by Ennio Morricone’s ominous score.

The brilliance of The Hateful Eight , made by a filmmaker who gets away with any amount of violence in his movies, lies in the way he holds back the violence. He lets it simmer nicely, like the chicken stew in the pot crackling over the fire to feed the hungry souls saving themselves from freezing to death from the “white hell” outside, before letting it boil over.

It must have been hard for Tarantino to resist the temptation of filming more scenes in the magnificent vistas of the snow-capped mountains. Instead, most of the action takes place inside the fancifully named Minnie’s Haberdashery. For Tarantino, the master of pastiches, it could be the haunted house in a horror film, or a motel from a soft-rock song from where one can check out anytime but can never leave.

That the audience is engrossed at a sensory, visual level, is taken care of by the filmmaker’s eye for detail, and his long-time collaborator, cinematographer Robert Richardson’s richly textured frames. This marks the return of the “glorious 70 mm in ultra Panavision” after nearly 50 years. As a result, instead of claustrophobia, there is comfort in its wooden interiors, thick rugs and piping hot coffee as compared to the bitter snowstorm outside.

In terms of characters, Tarantino toys with the Western archetypes: bounty hunters (Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russel), sheriff (Walter Goggins), convict (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and four strangers (Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir and Bruce Dern). And it’s the conversations between them that build the tension. They talk a lot. In a post-civil war America, they talk about hatred towards ‘niggers’, they talk about a letter that one of them supposedly received from Abraham Lincoln, about going home for Christmas, seemingly veering away from the main agenda. The tension is also shot up by action in the background. Like pieces on a chessboard, every character moving from point A to point B means something. There is unexpected introduction of a narrator who takes us on a couple of little flashbacks that significantly change the way we have seen things until then. And then, it’s pure mayhem, a bloody blast. Such as a scene involving a dismembered hand, chained to a person unable to free the disgusting thing from it, which swings to the rhythm of being hanged. And there is magic in the way blood trickles into snow (some of these scenes are likely to get censored). More often than not, it’s the director’s favourite star Jackson running the show channelling his blaxploitation and Western ambitions in equal measure.

The premise of The Hateful Eight is similar to the filmmaker’s own Reservoir Dogs .

It is also similar in many ways to a lot of other films of different genres. But that’s Tarantino, a fan with a mental library of movie myths. And as always, he makes something original and wildly entertaining out of it.

That the audience is engrossed at a sensory, visual level,

is taken care of by

the filmmaker’s eye

for detail

The Hateful Eight

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russel, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walter Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Damian Bichir,

Runtime: 3 hours

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 3:48:54 AM |

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