By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
Hell or High Water is the story of two brothers, Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) & Toby Howard (Chris Pine), who need to get around $40,000 dollars to the bank by Friday or else the bank will foreclose on their mother’s house, who has just passed. They decide to rob Texas Midland Bank branches because they’re the ones “stealing their mother’s land.” Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are the ones assigned to solving the case.
Hell or High Water is an extremely polished movie. David MacKenzie follows up his 2013 critical hit Starred Up with an even better film. He’s really finding his footing as a filmmaker and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Although if you have Taylor Sheridan writing your screenplay you won’t have to do much if anything to make your movie look good. Taylor has such a knack for writing good, intelligent, dramatic films, and he can add in a little humor into the script as well. After I saw Sicario I was immediately on board for anything that Taylor Sheridan would write. His follow-up, Hell or High Water, is just as tense as Sicario, but with a little humor mixed in. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for what Taylor is going to pen next.
The humor also works because of the actors. Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster have such excellent comedic timing and yet their dramatic scenes are just as good. Foster plays a loose cannon partner to straight and narrow Pine’s Toby, offering excellent comedic moments of Pine sweeping up Foster’s mistakes. However, it’s Chris Pine that truly shines in this film. I think we forget that Pine is actually a good actor and not just a blockbuster star. He’s great as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek franchise, but Pine should definitely look into grittier and more challenging roles and in time he could find himself accepting an Oscar.
David Mackenzie sure knew what he was doing with the music as well. He uses a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis which helps pump the movie along and adds to the tension in certain scenes, but his decision to also use songs along with the score works great. It really helps capture the feel of the movie and the feel of where the movie takes places in an almost desolate West Texas. The right music can make a film 10x better and that’s exactly what this score/soundtrack does.
One thing I really liked about the film is the way they told the back stories. We weren’t subjected to 20 minutes of clogging backstory. Instead we are dropped immediately into the action and we later learned about each character’s backstory through small conversations or brief shots, like over Jeff Bridges’s shoulder we see him reading a paper that says Mandatory Retirement. Through that one shot and one quick conversation between him and his partner we understand his actions. The same goes for Tanner and Toby, through small interactions we find out a lot about the two brothers past and present and understand their motivations.
This film also proves that the Western genre is still viable and will keep it going, just as No Country for Old Men did in 2007. It’s good to see smart, gritty Westerns are still being made. Since this movie takes place in present day, it speaks to issues within our society today such as bank greed and even to a small degree racism.
Hell or High Water is a brilliant film, with great acting, directing, writing, and music. I’d recommend you see this movie while it’s in theaters because I’d bet you’ll see it on a lot of Best Films of the Year lists in January and February.
Hell or High Water (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a bank is robbed.
Do a Shot: every time someone is killed.
Do a Shot: every time Jeff Bridges makes a racist joke.
Finally, You Must Drink either Lone Star or Shiner Bock: just to help get you in the Texas mood.