Scene: a bank robbery. Two armed thieves in ski masks approach the lone teller and an elderly customer she’s serving. One asks the latter, “You got a gun, old man?”
“Damn right I got a gun,” the old man responds. So the thieves take the gun away, complete their robbery, and flee the premises, leaving the man’s pistol on the counter. He of course picks it right back up and is firing on the bandits before they even reach their car, continuing to rain down lead until after they’ve sped out of the parking lot and down the street.
This moment, which takes place early in David Mackenzie’s stunning neo-Western Hell or High Water, is genuinely hilarious. But more than that, it shrewdly captures a regional ethos of the film’s West Texas setting, a strain of gun-toting self-reliance that occasionally shades into eager vigilantism. This is, notably, not the last time in the film that an armed bystander will attempt to thwart a crime in progress.
The bank robbers in question are the Howard brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), the former as conflicted about their vocation as the latter is enthusiastic. Toby, a model of Western taciturnity, needs money to save his family’s ranch from foreclosure by the Texas Midlands Bank, and he has come up with a plan to do so by robbing multiple small branches of that very same bank. Tanner, meanwhile, is the wild, older sibling, recently out of prison and happy for the excuse to indulge his antisocial appetites.
In laid-back pursuit of the duo are Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), a drawling Texas Ranger on the cusp of retirement, and his part-American-Indian deputy, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). The pursuit leads them from one small, economically battered town to another: Olney, Archer City, Coleman, Post.
Indeed, West Texas itself is a principal character in the film—dusty, sun-bleached, fading yet obstinate. More than once the idea is presented that this land belonged to the Comanche (the original title of the film was Comancheria) until the white people took it away from them; then it belonged to the white people until the banks took it away from them. This is hardly the first time that a film about bank robbers has portrayed them as modern-day Robin Hoods—perhaps the most recent was Michael Mann’s sleek but shallow Public Enemies—but Hell or High Water resists the urge to romanticize. Toby and Tanner aren’t glamorous figures, just men pushed to the edge. And while the movie’s economic critique is clear—apart from the Rangers, there’s hardly a male figure in the film who seems gainfully employed—it steers clear of didacticism, content to remain one background thread among many.
Mackenzie’s film quietly updates the themes and sensibility of Bonnie and Clyde.
Rich cinematic echoes abound, including several apparent callbacks to the Coen brothers’ southwestern oeuvre. Bridges’s Marcus is the slightly less exhausted—and more politically incorrect—twin of Tommy Lee Jones’s Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men. (At one point, his partner tells him, “I don’t know how you’re going to survive without someone to outsmart.”) And the Rangers’ response to a chance encounter with ranchers trying to herd their cattle away from a brush fire—“Those boys are on their own”—is a near-quote of the opening lines of Blood Simple.
Hell or High Water also conjures memories of two underrated West Texas neo-noirs from 1993. The narrative alternation between outlaw and pursuing Ranger mirrors that of Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World (though in contrast to that unbalanced film, here both halves are equally well-told). And the idea of sins passed down through time, of sons making amends for fathers—at one point Toby describes poverty as “like a disease that passes from generation to generation”—recalls Steve Kloves’s Flesh and Bone, which helped introduce the cinematic world to a 20-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow. Digging back deeper still, Mackenzie’s film quietly updates the themes and sensibility of Bonnie and Clyde.
Such reminders aside, Hell or High Water is very much its own film. The excellent script, by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario), was a 2012 Black List winner for unproduced screenplays. And Mackenzie’s direction is refined without being flashy, alternating between moods—comic, tragic, ruminative, violent—with seamless self-assurance.
So far in his career, Pine has had the dubious good fortune of establishing himself as a star of blockbusters (the Star Trek franchise, the upcoming Wonder Woman) before truly establishing himself as an actor. But in the role of Toby he makes up for lost time, with a low-key, charismatic turn reminiscent (again) of Josh Brolin in No Country. His bluer-than-blue eyes do not twinkle here, instead receding toward unknowability. As his brother, Tanner, Foster likewise keeps his performance dialed down, avoiding the overt scenery-chewing the character could easily have fallen into. (It’s almost enough to forgive the actor for Warcraft. Almost.)
Bridges, for his part, is an utter delight. I was less taken than some with his turns in Crazy Heart and True Grit, which seemed to fit a little too snugly within his comfort zone. But the ironic intelligence with which he plays Marcus feels fresh, and his visible joy in virtually every line reading can’t help but be infectious.
Hell or High Water is a genre film that transcends genre, an iconic American tale that is nonetheless firmly grounded in both place and time. (Perhaps its deepest irony is that it was directed by a Scotsman.) By turns humorous, riveting, and elegiac, it is a movie that never loses sight of its profound humanity.
“God, I love West Texas,” Marcus muses early in the film. Odds are that you will too.
Hell or High Water Srt Sub Subtitle Download
Midway through Hell Or High Water there’s a shot of a Stetson-wearing cowpoke unhitching his horse at a gas station as a lime-green abomination straight out of Pimp My Ride rolls into view. It’s a throwaway moment and you could argue that it’s as subtle as, well, a tricked-out muscle car, but that juxtaposition of old and new is key to what stops this lean, complex Cannes competitor being just another Southern-fried tale of desperate men and dirty deeds.
This is a deceptively simple tale that drags the Old West into the modern age.
The story — a Black List script from actor and on-a-hot-streak Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan — has a pleasing ring of familiarity. British director David Mackenzie (on his own hot-streak after his gut-punch of a prison drama Starred Up) throws us straight into a twitchy, sun-baked West Texan bank robbery. We soon meet the two brothers behind the heist — Toby (Pine), a former gas company worker and divorced father of two, and Tanner (Foster), an unpredictable career criminal — and discover they’re on a meticulously planned mission to gather enough unmarked bills to prevent the foreclosure of their late mother’s farmland.
If you’ve seen No Country For Old Men (or, for that matter, Heat) you’ll know what happens next. Enter Marcus (Bridges reviving his marble-gargling Rooster Cogburn drawl from the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake), an uncompromising, zinger-ready Texas Ranger who, alongside his part-Comanche partner Alberto (Twilight’s Birmingham), saddles up to track down the brothers before their next big score. From here, as Tanner and Toby squabble through preparations for the final part of their plan, there’s a compelling, almost mythic quality to the inevitable collision between these mismatched duos on opposing sides of the law. The creeping dread is helped along by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ typically foreboding score.
Yes, there are abundant crime flick clichés (Marcus is due to leave the force, obviously) but, like that vignette at the petrol pumps, they’re nearly always served up with a sardonic modern twist. Mackenzie has a painterly eye for the surreal in the everyday and presents a post-recession world of looming debt-management billboards, unemployed Iraq veterans and men in cowboy hats puffing e-cigarettes. What’s more, there’s an irresistible seam of Texan black comedy running through the whole thing: after one robbery, for example, a passerby casually offers to string up the perpetrators.
Bridges is having a ball. He can probably play this kind of cantankerous old badass in his sleep now, but here he salts Marcus’ one-liners with a weary vulnerability and the desperation of a reluctant retiree. Pine and Foster impress too, with an easy fraternal chemistry and faultless Southern accents. The face-off, when it arrives, comes amid a hail of bullets and, with the current debate around US gun control raging, the way the film plays a gaggle of pistol-wielding bystanders for laughs feels somewhat unfortunate. But this is a minor quibble. Sheridan once again proves adept at expertly managed tension as well as earthy, economic dialogue and this classy neo-Western ends as enjoyably and distinctively as it began.
You need to see this movie. That could be this entire review, but I think I should describe how amazing this film is. Unlike most summer movies, the writing is fantastic, keeping me and the rest of the people watching with me attached to the movie and its characters even when they are just talking in a diner or something. Also unlike most other summer movies, the movie does not attempt to create artificial tension in the form of fast cuts or stupid action scenes, it creates tension in the form of dialogue and sometimes in the form of brilliantly filmed action. It should be noted that the cinematography in this film is truly amazing. The cinematography captures the desolateness and sadness of the area of West Texas that the movie is set in. There are also many wide shots, which looked like they were filmed with drones which also added to the beauty of the filming. The music also adds to the western feel of this movie. The writing of this film is where it really shines. The writing is captivating and it is so natural, for the area. The banter between both pairs of characters (the brothers and the rangers) is very entertaining in that you can almost feel their relationship and the history of it. Also, I have to say, the writing for the side characters, who are only in the film for their respective scenes is even better. This is the first time I have ever cared about some random waitress who is only in the film for 90 seconds because their writing is masterful. Also, the acting is definitely some of the best I have seen, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges both really shine in the film because of their stunning acting. The acting helps in that when Chris Pine and Ben Foster are mid- heist you can really feel the stress when they get into situations that one or both of them are not comfortable with. In closing, this film has amazing writing, cinematography, acting, pacing, everything. This film is just beautiful and you really need to see it, like yesterday, it is easily the best film this year and a major contender for Best Picture, Best Director, etc.’Hell or High Water’ is a bit of an odd duck. Mainly because it got a wide release. This is the only great film that has released in 2016 that got a wide release. I mean, there are only four or five films that I thought have been really great and all of them have either got basically no theater release or a limited viewing. I truly hope that this spurs more films like it though. More well crafted movies that actually have characters you can get invested in. There have been so many films this year that have completely failed due to poor character writing. Now, this film isn’t perfect. So lets just get the negatives out of the way before we get into what makes this great.
There aren’t many problems here. The only big issue for me lies in the films story. It’s really not that good. Once you step back to examine it, it’s actually pretty by the numbers. If you’ve seen any heist movie ever than you probably know where this film is going. It follows a very standard formula that rarely deviates from it’s by the numbers approach.
But it wasn’t until I took a step back that I noticed it. That’s due to how well executed it is. It’s one of those films that’s so finely crafted that you don’t really notice it’s issues. That’s what I loved about the film. It has such great characters that the familiar beats it hits actually feel genuine. Because you get to know these people and you feel like their choices matter to what’s happening on screen.
Which came as a breath of fresh air in a time when films have become so predictable and convenient. Our three main characters are played by Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. Who were all at their very best for this movie. Foster was the weakest of all but when acting across from Bridges, is hard to really stand out. Yet, that is exactly what Chris Pine does. I have never seen him give this kind of performance.
I’m glad to see him taking on nuanced roles that legitimately show his range. It felt almost like his performance in ‘Z for Zachariah’ but he’s far more compelling to watch here. Which really adds to his character. He is the one that you have to feel for most. And his sad yet determined personality really pushed you through the film.
On the other end, Ben fosters character introduced the most conflict to the film. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into his character much but the film respected him enough to not make him the bad guy. It’s so easy to make a character like that the films bad guy but he never becomes that person. It respects its characters enough to make them humans with problems instead of saying this guys the bad one and this guy is the good one.
And it’s all shot and directed with the utter most care and effort. With nearly every shot you can feel the attention to detail and the work put into making this the way it is. It may not be Alejandro Inarritu levels of ingenuity but I loved seeing effort being put into making the film. It’s very rare to see great directing and inventive cinematography in wide release films like this.
‘Hell or High Water’ is rare breed. It’s a great film that got a wide release. There is a lot of love and care put into this and it shows. It’s well shot, directed nicely, has a solid score, is brilliantly acted, and offers excellent characters. This is definitely worth going out and seeing. That being said, It falls just short of being amazing. The story is pretty by the numbers and it’s ending doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to do. However, it remains a great film and is definitely worth supporting in theaters.
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