Directed by: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
Hell or High Water just sort of appeared in theaters with little fanfare and it actually deserves the attention. Taylor Sheridan, the writer that brought us Sicario, writes the film. This film feels like Sicario in its quiet nature but the characters here have more dimensions and there’s a greater variety of emotional energy, sometimes even humor.
The film stars Ben Foster and Chris Pine as poor country boys in small town Texas that set out on a plan to rob several banks, for a greater purpose. Jeff Bridges plays the small town cop determined to make these bank robbers his last big collar before retiring. Foster and Pine work surprisingly well as brothers in this film with each actor playing to their strengths; Foster is frenetic and unpredictable while Pine is stern and focused. These types of characters work great for these two actors and here we get them as brothers smashed together in a car, robbing banks, or in a rundown ranch.
These two brothers couldn’t be more different but their environment and their circumstances drive them toward the same goal. Each man is a part of the bigger plan for the same reason, but Foster in particular, seems to have a secondary goal. The film is painfully sad because both men have given up on themselves, their potential, the future, and happiness. Pine’s character says it best when he admits that he and his brother are poor, his parents were poor, and his grandparents were poor and that it has become a sickness for his family. Pine doesn’t see any chance for a better future so he feels driven to take from the place that has taken so much from him, and from his town, the bank. Under better circumstances Pine’s character seems to have a moral compass that would never find him stealing anything but desperate times call for desperate measures as they say. Foster has been a troublemaker from birth and has accepted that his path in life is to be a troublemaker. At least this plan allows him to be the bad guy with a good purpose, with heart.
Hell or High Water is quiet, tense, and sad without being melodramatic, and surprisingly funny at times. Jeff Bridges is doing his best Jeff Bridges in this film as the grumpy old man that is also struggle to accept his own circumstances. He’s old, he’s alone, and he’s about to be turned out to pasture, but he’s still got a fire in him, and it’s apparent all the way to the last frame o the movie. I honestly don’t know if this film is well directed or if the stellar cast just takes control of the film and makes their characters and scenes compelling. I say that because the film is shot fairly flat and the music cues feel painfully amateur. Even with those complaints Hell or High Water is still one of the best films I’ve seen this summer, a real hidden gem of a movie.