Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hell or High Water - Movie Review: An Old School Western Story Updated

After seeing Warcraft and now Hell or High Water, Ben Foster should really stick to Westerns.
Hell or High Water starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David Mackenzie. The way the movie is directed and the story told I’ll be looking for David Mackenzie’s next film. Hell or High water is about two brothers, Pine and Foster, who set out to rob banks for a specific reason. Bridges and Birmingham are the Texas Rangers tasked with tracking them down. This is all you should know before going into the movie because of how the story develops.

There isn’t much not to like about Hell or High Water. The story is expertly told and develops at the perfect pace. For the first half of the movie you don’t know why the brothers are pulling the bank jobs, but you know there is a reason. It is revealed at the perfect spot in the movie after the plot has developed. It kept me engaged and wondering why Pine’s character, Toby, was going along and planning the jobs. You get the feeling Foster’s character, Tanner, is doing it for his brother, but also just because he doesn’t have anything better to do. He does it for the thrill and rush. Toby is in it for a specific purpose and he sees no other options. Tanner also brings some practicality to what the job entails. He has no illusions about the consequences of his actions, and plans accordingly. You are invested in wanting the brothers to get away with the crime, but at the same time you want Bridges and Birmingham to catch them. I never truly knew if the brothers were or were not going to get away with the crimes. The film keeps you guessing, and while a few story points might be easy to figure out it is done in such a way that keeps you riveted to the screen.

This is also helped along with the dialogue from the script. The movie is naturally funny at parts. The theater I was in was laughing during many scenes in the film. You believe Foster and Pine are brothers because of their interactions and the conversations they have with one another. Bridges has most of the funny lines and delivers them expertly, teasing his partner throughout the entire movie with Native American jokes.  The film has a very tight script and it seems everything is used to move the story forward. Since Taylor Sheridan also wrote Sicario it shouldn’t be surprising this was such an intriguing story. Sheridan hopefully will be getting many more of his scripts read after Sicario’s reception and now this. He has a movie he wrote and directed coming out next year according to IMDB called Wind River. From his previous work, this goes onto a list of movies to watch out for next year.

Everything comes together well in the film and all of the main performances are fantastic. Pine easily sheds his Captain Kirk persona and loses himself in the poor drill worker for Western Texas. Foster always seems to be at his best when he is playing a character slightly unhinged and he does this well again. Bridges is once again fantastic and plays a great aging Texas Ranger who is being forced to retire. Birmingham plays off of Bridges well and you easily buy into their working friendship. All of the actors do a great job and draw you into the story with their performances.

I have a couple of small problems with the film. One is the story hits you over the head about the evilness of banks one too many times. There is one scene in particular that wasn’t needed and was too on the nose for how well the rest of the story was told. Take this one scene out and it is otherwise a nearly flawless piece of storytelling. The only other small complaint would be how artsy Mackenzie got with his shot selection at times. I liked most of the long tracking shots he did and other elements he used, but there were a few times a close-up or a certain shot of a car took me out of the movie. These are still extremely minor gripes for an otherwise excellent film.

I loved this movie, and can’t wait to watch it again. I grew up in the same region this film was shot in, and watching it greatly reminded me of my Grandma’s farm and the small town near it. So, I could have loved this more because of the setting it is filmed in. Hell or High Water is a new age Western and is a welcome addition to the genre. If you are fan of any type Western this movie is a must see. If you are just a fan of movies this film is just plain Worth Seeing. Go out to the theater and buy tickets and support it, or rent it when it is available. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

If you have seen Hell or High Water let me know what you thought of it. If not are you a fan of Western’s or Neo-Western’s? Comment and let me know some of your favorites. Add another besides No Country for Old Men. That’s too easy

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