Tuesday 24 January 2017

Hell Or High Water

There’s something about films set in the American South that always have me hooked. I don’t know what it is – maybe it’s the dusty, bare locations, or the rawness of the characters. Whatever it is, ‘Hell Or High Water’ (directed by David Mackenzie) has got it all.

Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are brothers who have recently experienced the death of their mother and, coming from a poor household, are struggling to get the money they need to keep the family ranch from being sold. The two take to small local bank robberies to raise the cash – easy for Tanner, who has just finished a ten year sentence and has no fear, but not for Toby, who is much more of a straight living kind of guy (he even apologises to the victims of each robbery upon departure). 

Meanwhile Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) is facing retirement from his role, and spending his last couple of weeks with his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) trying to suss out who the two thieves are, and catch them before he has to leave. 

The premise itself is a simple one, but it works best that way. Although the plot is important it’s not the main focus of the film, as we look more at character development. What really sets ‘Hell or High Water’ apart is just how believable the character relationships are – both sets of characters have interesting relationships with one another, and it just feels real. The racial banter between Marcus and Alberto is amusing to watch and adds a subtle comedy, yet it’s also a great demonstration of how strong the relationship is between the two. Toby and Tanner have a more difficult relationship considering Tanner’s less than savoury past, but again there’s a certain connection between the two that stands out. It’s hard not to feel affection for these characters by the end of the film.

There’s also nothing to fault with the film technically, with beautiful cinematography that has clearly been well thought-out by Giles Nuttgen every time. It’s a film you can really immerse yourself in and become part of – something I think makes a whole lot of difference to the viewer. The script is intelligent and deep at points, and at the end of the film the story feels complete. No twist, no cliffhangers, no controversy – just a sense of fulfilment, which is immensely satisfying in a world of films that increasingly try and outdo one another.

Bridges has played a lot of roles similar to this one, so I would expect him to give a great performance, which he inevitably does. Chris Pine is also excellent as Toby, and I’m yet to see him in anything that I don’t like. I thought Foster’s performance of Tanner was particularly interesting as, given his character and actions, is someone we really shouldn’t like, and yet Foster helps to make him likable, and even cared for by the viewer.

‘Hell or High Water’ isn’t just a modern day Wild West plot – it’s also a film about brotherhood, family, friendship, and the choices poverty can impose on a person. It’s gritty and exciting as you’d expect but also thought-provoking, making it a definite must-watch. 


Hannah Read

Hell Or High Water at CeX

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