Hell or High Water: Film Review
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
Director: David Mackenzie
There's plenty of soul in the mournful Hell Or High Water.
Managing to cram in a hefty dose of socio-economic commentary in the ruins of towns riddled by foreclosure and debts, Hell Or High Water is the West Texas set tale of two brothers, Toby and Tanner (Pine and Foster) hell-bent on robbing banks for their own reasons.
Enter two Texas Rangers, one Alberto an Indian (Birmingham) whose rueful regret at the banks stealing their heritage and the other Marcus (Bridges), who's on the cusp of retirement, but not about to go lightly or willingly into the long night.
As the laconic game of cat and mouse plays out, there's a very real sense of roads colliding and personal stakes rising, but there's also a deep familial connection that makes itself known.
Depression rears its head all throughout Hell or High Water; from the cutaway shots of roads that are riddled with foreclosure or debt signs or to the long shots of fields dotted with oil wells pumping futilely away, this is a film that's got its condemnation of the financial crisis and the banks hard-wired into its execution.
Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan manages shots of dry humour and Fargo-esque idiosyncratic trappings of character within his taut screenplay that examines the relationships between the two brothers and the two rangers, and works best when it concentrates on those elements. Both have bits of brotherhood scattered through; from Marcus' continual plaguing of put-upon Alberto with racial slurs or being annoying, to Toby and Tanner's reunion after Tanner's time in jail and his black sheep status within the family.
But it's in the subtleties that this film works - the quieter moments, led by a hang-dog Pine who underplays to great effect, are infinitely more worthwhile than the continual quirks of some of the residents of West Texas. Sheridan captures the frailties of familial bonds with ease. And accentuated by a Warren Ellis / Nick Cave score, the whole thing bathes in a kind of timeless dread.
Equally worthy of recognition is a resigned but resilient Bridges as Marcus, a cantankerous man whose loneliness beckons in his twilight years. Bridges brings a gruffness and simplicity of execution to the film and gives it an edge that's as timeless as any cops and robbers chase film you've seen.
Ultimately, Hell or High Water is a wee ripper of a film; an eclectic and at times, eccentric old school Western that works on many levels. Swathed in contemplative elements and blessed with a stonking script and execution, it's proof there's life in the old dog yet and that when done properly, dialogue is king.