Esther McCarthy reviews The Hateful Eight and A War on today's show
The Hateful Eight (18) **
Quentin Tarantino's eighth film is a bit of a bore - an aimless western lacking the characteristic strong dialogue and great tension of his best films.
Unlike recent successes Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds, the film fails to build any sort of meaningful dramatic arc. The pace also drags - a real issue when your film's running time is almost three hours (including a ten-minute interval).
It's a pity, because Tarantino's cast is well up for the premise, which seems promising in the first hour.
Set in mid-winter Wyoming just a few years after the Civil War, this is a lawless, violent place where chaos still reigns and every man is out for himself.
In the midst of all this, we meet bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) who's bringing his latest capture in alive - Daisy Domergue (Jenniifer Jason Leigh), a member of a ruthless criminal gang.
As a snowstorm looms, Ruth takes on two loners who seek safe transport on his stagecoach. Samuel L Jackson is Major Warren, a fellow bounty hunter intrigued by Ruth's criminal catch, while Walton Goggins plays Chris Mannix, a mouthy character who claims to be the new sheriff of Red Rock, the town they're headed for.
When the weather overcomes them they take shelter in Minnie's a shop in which the proprioter is nowhere to be seen but where four other mysterious characters hold court. It's not long before violence looms.
Tarantino's film tries to shed some light on the divisions of the period but fails to do so in any meaningful way, while some of the more violent scenes make for uncomfortable viewing - it may be the director's most grimly violent film. The context isn't there and neither are the paybacks - even big performances from Jason Leigh and Jackson fall short of bringing the weak story and stilted dialogue to life. A disappointment.
A War (15A) ****
Danish director Tobias Lindholm's follow up to the superb A Hijacking does not disappoint, taking us into the heart of the action with this slick morality thriller.
The super Pilou Asbaek (you'll have seen him in Borgen) takes us to the front line in Afghanistan, where lawlessness and confusion looms large in the barren land he and his platoon of soldiers patrol.
Back home in Denmark, his wife (Tuva Novotny) is managing a conflict of her own, as their three children struggle with life without their father present.
During an intense day of conflict, Asbaek's Pedersen makes some morally complex decisions as chaos unfolds around him. Lindholm's film centres on whether the troops should face repercussions at home because of this. A tense, brilliantly acted drama that refuses to draw any of its characters in broad strokes, A War again marks Lindholm out as a filmmaker to admire.