Hell or High Water (2016) Film Review



What is it about?:

A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.


What did I think?

Hell or High Water is a fascinating film, in that it is a western harkening back to the Old West, yet its set in modern times. It’s steeped in the myth of the old west, yet it’s themes are focused on current world themes.

Its leads, Tanner and Toby, played exceptionally by Ben Foster and Chris Pine, are anti-heroes fitting of a Western, yet soaked in a narrative befitting a crime thriller.

There’s a lot to these characters here, more so than any Western Archetypes. There’s pain and fear and anger and betrayal that flesh them out and make them fascinating to watch as the film unfolds.

Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) script has its focus sharp on the theme of economy but it never feels manipulative, I never felt like it was hitting me over the head with what it was exploring, because there’s a desperation at play. It’s something I think a lot of audience members can identify with and so that adds a layer of complexity to the film that I think is rich.

The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is a highlight as well. It’s soft and subtle, quiet and simmering. It’s not caught up in any swelling orchestral strings that feel overcooked, it is reflective and contemplative.

A nod should go to Jeff Bridges as well. Here he’s playing a Texas Ranger on the hunt for the two brothers. The performance is restrained and effective, even haunting towards the end.

What we have here is a tremendously effective Western, with an exceptional cast and a story that harkens back to the old west while creating an identity of its own.

J’s Verdict: ☆☆☆☆


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