Review: Hell Or High Water Is One of Summer’s Best Movies
The thrilling yet tranquil neo-western is one of the season’s most accessible indies.
Two Texas brothers–Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster), reunite to steal money from various bank branches due to the looming foreclosure of their family’s property as a way to “take back” a future what has been stolen from them. Hot on their trail is Texas Ranger, Marcus (Jeff Bridges) looking for one last big arrest just before he retires, as well as his partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham). As Toby and Tanner plot a final bank robbery to conclude their tour of mayhem, and with the Rangers close behind, an old fashioned showdown lingers.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 5
“Hell or High Water” is a modern western with richly drawn character showcasing small town America with a rustic, old fashioned sensibility. Directed flawlessly by David Mackenzie, he embraces the use of long-shots that pans across barren landscapes reminding viewers the dire circumstances small towns face. There is a delicate balance that “Hell or High Water” has to achieve and they do so masterfully. David Mackenzie balances captivating performances with tense robberies/car chases/shoot outs and quiet long shots. Similar to Jeff Nichol’s MUD as that very rare blend of thoughtful art house craft with true blue Middle American appeal.
The two brothers played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster deliver nuanced performances where they wear their anxiety and slipping aspirations on their sleeve. They are desperate enough to rob banks across Texas. Jeff Bridges is truly a national treasure of an American actor. He is a riot and steals every second he is on screen in “Hell Or High Water.” He has funny and inappropriate lines. I liked that he was his own man and that while being politically incorrect, he wasn’t crude. People on both ends of a polarizing sides have a hard time grasping the difference. Comparing the two relationships were fascinating. The police officers were more like brothers teasing each other and the brothers were burdened by the work they did.
The layered screenplay from Taylor Sheridan who wrote “Sicario” is full of what should be required in all movies: character development, an engaging plot, countless memorable scenes, and funny one-liners. It is a reminder that movies used to be like this. Any movie that features the randomness of a waitress ranting about the New Yorker who ordered trout or has banter such as “This is what they call white man’s intuition” followed by “Sometimes a pig finds a truffle” embraces genuine, yet quirky realism. What an exceptional screenplay.
Entertainment Value – 4
Even though it has a somewhat slower pace, it doesn’t rush anything. Like a small town resident, it takes its sweet old time. “Hell Or High Water” is an entertaining and at times riveting watch. From the quick, loud robberies to the dialogue saturated moments to even the shots of arid landscapes, audiences receive a good variety of scenes.
A rare mainstream Middle American crowdpleaser that screened in competition at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard category, “Hell Or High Water” is nowhere nearly as pretentious as the film festival where it premiered. This could play well with mainstream, ordinary audiences. This isn’t an art house film in the traditional sense. It is a reminder that movies like this have been abandoned by the big blockbuster studio system.
Re-Watchability – 5
What we have here is a re-watchable classic. I wanted to watch it again immediately. My opening night audience was enthused for it and seemed eager to re-visit it. One would want to pick up on all the great one-liners that Jeff Bridges says. You can pretty much put anyone in front of “Hell or High Water” and they will find it appealing. This would do especially well in the South and the West.
One of the year’s best movies, the modern western “Hell Or High Water” expands across the country in the coming weeks.
- Entertainment Value
"Hell or High Water" is a return to form for cinema's ability to transfix audiences for top notch storytelling.
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