You have to be a Tarantino fan to get the most out of it – but there’s no doubting his second western is another stroke of genius.
Largely confined to one room for most of the film’s nearly three-hour duration, the Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained director weaves a deadly tale of betrayal and deception featuring eight intriguing characters, set just after America’s Civil War.
The 1870’s-set story is centred around legendary (John Wayne-esque) bounty hunter John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorting his prized-prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) across a wintry Wyoming landscape – picking up Samuel L Jackson’s Major and Walter Goggins’ (Predators) ex-militiaman along the way – for her to be hanged at Red Rock.
But when a severe blizzard hits, Ruth’s stagecoach has to seek refuge at the friendly outpost of Minnie’s Haberdashery, only to be greeted by the unfamiliar faces of Bruce Dern’s Confederate General, Tim Roth’s hangman, Michael Madsen’s cow puncher and Demian Bichir’s shady Mexican – who is supposedly looking after the place in owner Minnie’s absence.
What ensues is five fascinating chapters of differing time lengths that showcases Tarantino at his best, in this drama that is more akin to a theatre show (Tarantino initially wrote it for the stage) set within a movie.
If you’re an enthusiast of the acclaimed director’s nuances and exceptional film-making prowess the time will breeze by as it builds to the violent and bloody final third – but you could find it a bit of a slog if you’re coming in from the cold unaware of Tarantino’s previous material.
The terrific musical score (which notched a Golden Globe this week), sensational cinematography and beautifully-landscaped setting, really gives the movie a gritty and visceral feel – and a true sense of the harsh weather conditions – which helps add weight to the truly compelling double-crossing that slowly evolves in front of your very eyes.
With exceptional performances throughout (particularly from Russell, Jackson and Jason Leigh), some captivating side stories – that explore the race and justice issues of the times – and a truly wicked sense of humour, this really brings a lot to the table.
Only a touch of overfamiliarity and an abrupt (maybe slightly disappointing) ending prevents it just shy of five-star classic status – putting it in the same league as recent four-star efforts Inglourious Basterds and Django – and sadly won’t quite help Tarantino notch his coveted Best Director Oscar yet again, despite another gallant effort.
But any true fan of film should saddle up and join QT’s intoxicating western ride as soon as possible nevertheless.
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Gavin Miller[youtube id=”69UwVX6Riv8″ width=”600″ height=”350″]
Cast: Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demian Bichir, James Parks, Zoe Bell & Channing Tatum
Running Time: 2 Hrs 47 Mins
Director: Quentin Tarantino