After the massive commercial success of his last two films (the revisionist war movie¬†Inglourious Basterds and the blaxploitation Spaghetti Western Django Unchained – both brilliant), writer/director Quentin Tarantino is in a pretty unique and envious place. He can pretty much do whatever he wants for a while, although in fairness he’s already forged a dazzling career doing precisely that. For his latest, he’s chosen to dial the scale down a bit, working with a single location for pretty much the entire film, a minimal cast and a fairly simple premise – essentially another Western but with Agatha Christie influences combined with his usual preoccupations of racial politics, fractured timelines and stylised violence.

It’s a setup that could work as a stage play, but it’s played with such commitment to making it as cinematic as possible that it doesn’t feel like one. Robert Richardson’s stunning cinematography makes every scene feel epic, as though the cracking fault lines of 19th century America have been condensed in this handful of confrontations. A fine ensemble all bring their characters to life memorably, though Jennifer Jason Leigh manages to stand out with less lines than most. Tarantino’s writing also shines yet again, whether it’s with his meticulously detailed character work and bold explorations of topics that are still tense even by today’s standards, or his trademark mischief with flashbacks and timeline devices. He indulges a little too much as a director though – a sharper edit and a few brakes on his unbridled ambition would have been welcome.

Another unique and utterly idiosyncratic addition to Tarantino's body of work8
Robert Richardson's cinematography - a masterclass of making the mundane seem magnificent9
Jennifer Jason Leigh managing to upstage her flashier, louder fellow cast members9
Quentin Tarantino getting carried away as a writer9
Quentin Tarantino getting carried away as a director5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
8Overall Score

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