Partly because of his measured picking and choosing from his past, this is Tarantino's most tonally consistent film since Pulp Fiction. It never dips into the brazen B-Movie style that's always been present regardless of the film at hand (Sam Jackson's film monologue in Inglorious, the violence in Django) and every element feels clearly targeted towards delivering this movie. His best since 1994? Too soon to say, but it's certainly something special.
It also sees the director develop his intrinsic filmmaking process. He's always embodied auteurism to the most extreme level, meticulously overseeing every facet of production, but here things open up; although there's the usual, era-specific soundtrack choices here, for the first time he's opted to give up some of his control and have someone else define the soundtrack. Ennio Morricone is an inspired collaborator and it's incredible to hear him given freedom in his work. At points his music actually alters the tone; a rather inconsequential scene is given a sense of real menace through nothing but music.
It all helps make the film feel bigger, although it'd all be a bit of empty spectacle if the more conventional elements weren't as well constructed as they are. The script, structured in Chapters, methodically builds misunderstanding and sneakily seeds odd recurrent elements (a letter from Abraham Lincoln is a highlight), and, while there's no scene that's quite as horrifyingly captivating as the likes of the bar room scene in Basterds, it's still tense stuff, with the real narrative point of the movie shifting multiple times.
Featuring a range of Tarantino alum (another part of that sense of culmination), the cast can handle all of this brilliantly; Samuel L. Jackson is the closest we have to a main character and delights in that focus, although everyone's great with whatever role they've been given (especially Tim Roth, hammily stellar as an eccentric hangman). The biggest surprise of the lot is probably Walton Goggins as a slimy-but-honest potential sheriff; he's got a lot more to do than he did in Django, standing as a key representation of the racial themes.
The Hateful Eight is a film of high contrasts, from the fact it's a western covered in snow to how it can be both highly cinematic and a suitable subject for a stage play, and, in making it so fearlessly, Tarantino has shown he can still give us something new after all these years. See it, and see it on the biggest, widest screen possible.
The Hateful Eight is in cinemas in the US from 1st January 2016 (limited from 25th December) and the UK from 8th January 2016.