Hell or High Water
I’m not a fan of Westerns – either classic or the neo Western genre of which Hell or High Water is the latest addition. However, this film has received rave reviews and is considered the best film so far in 2016 by a number of critics so I decided to see it and I’m glad I did. It is excellent – from the writing to the acting to the directing as well as the cinematography and the music which compliments the serious and difficult subject matter. Warning – there is some violence in this “R” rated movie (not unexpected given the subject matter) in this timely social commentary.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play Toby and Tanner Howard, two brothers living in rural West Texas who take up robbing branches of the Texas Midland Bank in order to obtain enough money to save the family ranch for Toby’ s children. We are led to believe that the Bank has not only unfairly treated the Howards but is instrumental in the depressed state of the local economy. Jeff Bridges plays a crusty old Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement who is chasing down the bank robbers while continually spitting out racist jokes to his part Mexican/ part Comanche partner played by Gil Birmingham. Jeff Bridges could have just rolled out of True Grit into this role – same character and he plays it like the pro he is. All of the actors are great in this movie but the huge surprise for me is Chris Pine who shows that he has depth far beyond Captain Kirk and his Brad Pitt -like looks match up with Pitt’s acting chops.
The script is by Taylor Sheridan who also wrote Scario and the intensity of emotion and non-stop action in both films is similar. I loved the cinematography – the rich landscapes of West Texas combined with the stark reality of dying ranches and boarded up towns. The score by Nick Cave is perfectly matched to the serious plot it supports and is as haunting as the film. Reminded me of his tract “Oh Children” which was so effectively used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 as the song Hermione and Harry dance to as their futures looked desperately bleak – the moods being similar.
The movie is difficult to watch and there are compelling moral dilemmas. For example, how can you support the brothers with their actions having the expected unintended consequences – but you do. The concealed weapon proponents will feel their case is made as will the anti-gun contingent as the final bank robbery plays out. The issue of the impact of the economic downturn, particularly in areas like rural Texas makes the rise of both the Trump and Sanders platforms seem more understandable. There are so many layers of this film to revel in and think about. It is one that I will see again even though I tend to cringe with the violence in movies like this. See this movie – it is worth it.