Have we finally reached peak Tarantino?
The Hateful Eight is, fittingly, not only the director's eighth film, but indeed his most hateful. I for one have had enough.
His concept for the film is to create a piece of event cinema. Harking back to the Epics and Westerns of the 50s and 60s, he shot the film in Ultra Panavision 70, a long-dormant format that uses a unique lens to create an especially wide aspect ratio. In addition, the film is lengthy, begins with a theatrical overture and even has an intermission (allowing projectionists to change the reel). That the film is only showing in certain capable cinemas has become newsworthy.
That's all well and good, but it means nothing when the film itself is so underwhelming. It's as if more effort was put into the presentation than the actual narrative. For starters, what we have here is typical Tarantino fare: an admittedly tightly focused concept of a group of bandits locked up in a confined space, fetishisation of pithy dialogue, and the same old faces turning up as little more than fodder for a series of cartoonish and violent deaths. Aside from an ominous and hypnotic score from the godfather of Western soundtracks, Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight adds little to the Tarantino oeuvre that we haven't seen before.
Yet more so, the plot whittles down to little more than an elaborate rescue mission, and the quite frankly abhorrent torture of the film's only lead female. Split in two halves, the first is endless dialogue that you may as well nap through. Far from his usual creative writing, the characters effectively speak nonsense, made to sound dramatic yet actually displaying little depth in characterisation beyond staid stereotypes. It's not helped by terrible sound, with each actor mumbling their lines incoherently. The only exception is Samuel L Jackson who, as ever, remains a charismatic and captivating screen presence.
In the second half the mystery is finally unravelled, bringing with it sickening (literally) violence. It's what we're used to from Tarantino - Kill Bill, for instance, has the most deaths but is particularly cartoonish in its depiction - but here it comes quick and sudden, undermining the sense of gravitas the first half brings. It lacks intensity and the brutality is simply messy rather than cathartic. More so, it's often aimed at the film's sole lead woman, primarily for comic effect. You can practically picture Tarantino giggling to himself from behind the camera like a schoolboy.
And what of the 70mm film? Certainly it allows for some wide and stunning vistas of Colorado landscapes (where the film was shot), but when the majority of the action takes place inside a single claustrophobic room during a blizzard, the retro technology just seems a bit pointless.
That's just like the film - pointless. The characters may speak a lot, but Tarantino appears to have run out of meaningful things to say. Divisive as ever, the result is a film that's self-conscious, self-satisfying and self-indulgent, not to mention highly pretentious and genuinely offensive. Tarantino has stated he'll stop making films after his tenth; if only he'd stop now.
Watch: The Hateful Eight is out now.