Hell or High Water – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster Chris Pine
In cinemas September 9th
Any movie that opens with a bank robbery will usually pique an audience’s interest. After all we want to know why they are doing it. Who they are? How they got to this point? This movie is no exception. Thanks to the dramatic and mysterious opening you find you are immediately drawn into the story.
The bank robbers in question turn out to be brothers Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster). Although Tanner is the n’er do well brother who only got out of jail a year ago, it is the seemingly innocent and butter wouldn’t melt Toby who has masterminded the bank jobs in an attempt to keep the family ranch. Unfortunately they don’t bank on Texas Ranger Marcus (Bridges) who is about to retire but has one more case in him. Noticing a pattern in their crimes he heads in pursuit of the pair. But with Tanner getting overconfident and Toby feeling guilty they may scupper their own plans before Marcus ever catches them.
This is an incredibly complex heist thriller that forgoes the usual shoot ‘em up fare in favour of a solid story and performances. Yes there are one or two “action” scenes but on the whole the drama here is in the tension between the characters. Even the smallest supporting player is not underwritten and this brings a complexity and voyeuristic quality to the story. The three main players Bridges, Pine and Foster are all excellent. Pine is a particular revelation as this is somewhat of a departure from his usual handsome leading man roles but he does a fine job.
Of course this would be irrelevant if it wasn’t for an excellent script and some thoughtful direction. Also, the Texas setting (although actually filmed in New Mexico) is stunning. The vast arid landscapes juxtapose nicely with the desperation felt by Toby. Everything here has been carefully thought out to enhance the story. There is no excess. From the moment this begins it doesn’t let up.
You find that you care about all the characters which causes a dilemma as technically two of them are bad guys but they are just so well rounded that it is impossible not to be invested in them.
It may lack lots of CGI and big set pieces but this is an extraordinary film. It has tension, heart, humour and the kind of complex characters that make you want to know more about them. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the best films of the year to date and a must see for anyone who loves good cinema.