Hell Or High Water (2016)

Hell or High Water film poster.png
One to see, come hell or high water

Director: David MacKenzie
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, 

Western films may not be as dominant as they once were, but as Slow West and The Coens' True Grit have shown, there remains life in the genre yet. With David MacKenzie's addition to the Western, it's strong proof that the genre will never truly die, as long as quality additions like this keep getting released.

In order to pay off the reverse mortgage on their families ranch, divorced father Toby Howard (Chris Pine) masterminds a plan to raise the necessary money. Asking for help from his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster), the two carry out bank robberies on branches of Texas Midlands Bank. Picking up the trail is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), intent on stopping their plan.

Image result for hell or high water youtubeAs the father who tries to justify his part in the robbery, under the belief it'll result in a better life for his children, Chris Pine does a terrific job. His older brother, Tanner, is portrayed by Ben Foster, and he has no allusions about how things will end. He's accepted the very real idea he won't get away with it all, and his welcoming of the inevitable end leaves him reckless and more willing to take risks. The pair do wonderful work in the lead roles, sharing believable brotherly chemistry.

Jeff Bridges portrays Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger not looking forward to his nearing retirement. Gruff and wisecracking, Hamilton isn't one to show his emotions, with his only adoration being shown in his relentless teasing of fellow Ranger, Alberto Parker (a great Gil Birmingham). What could have been a typical "officer close to retirement" role is made anything but cliche with thanks to the characterisation, and a magnificent performance by the ever reliable Bridges.

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan allows details to bleed through, making motivations and character details all the more clear as the running time passes on. While a lesser picture would've treated the brothers as outright villains for their plan, Sheridan's script doesn't go down such an easy route. Instead, they're treated as doing what they believe to be good, in a manner less lawful than what Ranger Hamilton would allow. The banks are made out to be the clear antagonist, frequently criticised by the characters for their greedy tactics. It's this decision to favour character work and story telling over gun play which helps make it so compelling.

The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens is some truly stunning work, capturing the Texas plains in an gorgeous manner. It makes for a great combination with the soundtrack, by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, which perfectly captures the tone of the picture. All these disparate threads manage to come together, making for one heck of a picture.

Hell Or High Water captures the spirit of the old West, and manages to utilise it for a taut, contemporary film. Impeccably acted, well written, and executed in an utterly gripping way, David Mackenzie has crafted one of 2016's best films.