Title: Hell or High Water
MPAA: Rated R for strong violence, language, and brief sexuality
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
Synopsis: A divorced dad (Pine) and his ex-con brother (Foster) resort to robbing banks in order to save their family’s farm in West Texas. Standing in their way is Marcus (Bridges), a Texas Ranger who’s only weeks away from retirement.
Hell or High Water is another example of how great the independent films have been this year compared to the bigger blockbuster movies. Creating a compelling story set in modern-day, rural Texas, David Mackenzie creates a film that at times can be very patient, but also can really can pack a punch when it needs to. Hell or High Water is a must-see film and is superbly directed, acted, and shot.
One of the biggest compliments I can give this film is how real it felt. The directing did not feel like standard Hollywood directing, and pretty much all of the characters felt like real people. If I were ever to travel to some small town in Texas, then I know that the people I would find would be exactly like those in Hell or High Water. I just hope I don’t run into any bank robbers while I’m there! The bank robberies were all well shot, and were extremely tense.
As a lot of bank robbery films go, there is always that crazy one in the group, and that type of character is played brilliantly by Ben Foster. I thought Ben Foster’s performance really stood out from all the rest. He was a lit fuse ready to blow and displayed the insanity and nuttiness in his character very well. Chris Pine played his brother and was the other bank robber in the film. Pine’s character was more calm and collected and had great chemistry with Foster’s character. I thought they both pulled off being brothers very well even though they did not really look like each other. This was definitely one of Chris Pine’s best performances as a young actor, and steered away from playing the handsome, charming protagonists that he normally plays. Pine’s character, among everyone else, really looked and felt like a real person who has lived in Texas all their life. Last but not least there’s Jeff Bridges, who was brilliant like he always is, and had some hilarious lines throughout. I think his characters among all the other main characters in the film felt most like someone who lives in that area. I really bought him as a veteran Texas ranger who was weeks away from retirement. It’s amazing how much great actors can bring to a simple role. Bridges probably gave the best performance in the film.
This film follows a standard three-act structure, and has a plot that is very similar to those who have seen Ben Affleck’s The Town. I couldn’t help but think of that film after watching Hell or High Water, because the plot is very similar besides the settings being different. I think both films are very well made and having intriguing storylines, so I wouldn’t say one was better than the other. As The Town used its location (Boston) very well, Hell or High Water does the exact same. The cinematography, music, and the way all the characters talked all distributed that western, Texas feel very well. As a viewer, I was very emerged in the small-town location and dessert areas. Some of the characters, especially Jeff Bridge’s character, had very strong southern accents, so it was hard to understand what they were saying at times. Although, for the most part, that was not a concern.
Overall, Hell or High Water is a solid modern Western, that is expertly directed and gives outstanding performances from the entire cast. This film really surprised me with how character-driven it was. It did not completely rely on action, violence, or car chases to enhance its story. There were a lot of scenes that were just talking, but this film never felt too slow. This film is surprisingly very humorous at times, and contains one scene involving an older waitress that was truly hysterical. This film can also be very gripping at times, and the final climax is extremely intense, engaging, and memorable. This was a pleasant surprise and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to watch a film with a compelling story and great acting. My grade for this film is: