Beyond excited to add my first wild west film since The Scene Queen’s launch and boy oh boy did I get lucky with this one. There has been consistent disappointment this summer’s films, but August releases have saved the day. Hell or High Water is no exception.
Although tragic and depressing, it is an authentic depiction of life in West Texas. To paint a picture, it is not an easy way of living, both rough and relentless, but the West Texans make it work with their resilience and can-do attitudes. The director, David Mackenzie (Starred Up), chose a deliberately slow and methodical pace from the start, gradually building up to the action. The use of dead time (periods in which there is a quiet, serene tone with little noise and an emphasis on the desolate scenery) highlighted this. Dark, shadowy camera angles honed in on the characters, allowing a deeper understanding of the characters’ emotions.
The cast was the highlight of the film, so hats (cowboy hats) off to you Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) who crafted flawless characters for his screenplay. Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) and Chris Pine (Star Trek series) personified tortured and conflicted souls, but in their own unique ways. Their personality clash, Foster as the cold, trigger-happy older brother and Pine as the emotional, pensive and reserved younger brother, made the film exceptional. Their good cop, bad cop act made it easy to sympathize with their tough situation, but hard to watch at the same time, always having the feeling of impending doom. I can’t help but compare this to Craig Sheffer and Brad Pitt’s relationship in A River Runs Through It, a classic portrayal of little/older brother syndrome. Speaking of good cop, bad cop act, Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) and Gil Birmingham (Twilight series) played this to a tee as actual cops. Racist, bigoted, and stereotypical comments spewed out Bridge’s mouth, further perpetuating the Southern mentality that still exists to this day. By the end, you fully understand Foster and Pine’s desperation to make a better life for themselves.
Sheridan gives us some food for thought: decisions we make in life have consequences that affect the rest of our lives. Even if you get away with whatever you did, it will haunt you forever, never allowing you to have peace.
Bottom Line: Hell or High Water is considered one of the best films of Summer 2016, not sure I fully agree, but I stand firm, this is a must-see. Giddy up cowboy (or cowgirl, PC I know I know) and get to theaters before this indie film is gone.