VOD film review: Hell or High Water
Sticking It to the Man10
Natalie Lando | On 09, Jan 2017
Director: David MacKenzie
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham
Watch Hell or High Water online in the UK: BFI Player / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Wuaki.tv / Google Play
So here is a film that stars Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster. It has a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. It’s directed by David Mackenzie, who you may know from the brutal but ludicrously powerful Starred Up. Oh, and its written by Sicario’s Taylor Sheridan. Now how’s that for impressive credentials?
Hell Or High Water does not disappoint. It strikes a perfect balance of action, humour, gorgeous Texan landscapes, and Jeff Bridges.
The relationships in the film are key to what makes it so touching, hilarious, and tense. Chris Pine and Ben Foster, playing the two brothers at the centre of the story, have a very tangible chemistry as Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster). Toby is the brains of the operation, Tanner is the loose canon, and each personality complements the other as they negotiate a bank-robbing plot to truly stick it to the man, and then charge him interest. Chris Pine particularly shows that there’s more to him than Captain Kirk, with a quiet determination that contrasts with Ben Foster’s outrageous older brother. There’s a very real sense that the two characters would truly do anything for one another, and, in the final act, the seeds sown get reaped big style.
The film looks gorgeous, with punishing dusty shots of the most isolated stretches of Texas, sitting very comfortably against Cave and Ellis’ beautiful score. The composing duo sprinkle their usual Western magic on top of the movie’s modern-day slant on the genre. Taylor Sheridan is on blistering form too, with a razor sharp screenplay and some truly terrific dialogue – even the exchanges with the locals stand out.
Mackenzie’s direction and Sheridan’s screenwriting just feel made for each other, with the director taking a clever, and often highly emotional, screenplay and bringing it to life, both with his aesthetics and his command of the actors. The film provides some wonderful musings on fatherhood, fraternity, masculinity, and poverty. The action scenes are tense and you absolutely root for Toby and Tanner, while Bridges is fantastic as the Texas Ranger dreading a quiet retirement after a high-octane career.
It’s a fractionally lighter affair than Starred Up, Bridges and Gil Birmingham standing out with their amusing cowboy/Comanche exchanges as partners on the job. But for all its laughs, this is a film with a very serious message at its core, about the way big business and banking affect the little guy. The locals say the bank has “been robbin’ them for years”, but in the end, everyone gets some kind of absolution.