“Hell or High Water”
Directed by David Mackenzie
There is nothing quite as satisfying as a heist flick that has less to do with the heist than it does with the emotional makeup of the cops and robbers – especially when the cops and robbers are as thoroughly fleshed out as the characters in Mackenzie’s “Hell or High Water”. Every line of this dense, but sparse, script is in service of time, place and character…all of which drive the plot, instead of the other way ’round. As a result, there is no way to leave the theater feeling cheated, or wishing it had gone this way or that. It ends exactly as it must – an inextricable drive toward a perfect ending. It’s such a joy when a director and studio know to get the hell out of the way!
The film could not be more beautifully shot…with incredible vistas of the plains of Texas framed by the destructive machinations of the housing and economic collapse of the late 2000’s. It’s enough to make you exclaim aloud about the raw beauty of that part of the country while quickly adding, “but, damn, what a shithole!”
But that openness – shithole-ness, if you will – is practically stuffed to the gills by three incredible, fully realized performances from the three leads. Chris Pine continues to showcase what he is capable of as a film actor. He’s always had charisma and good looks. In “Into the Woods” we found out he has singing chops as well. But here, he puts all of that in his back pocket and brings us the face and demeanor of the downtrodden bottom 5% of the “99%”. His calm and controlled reactions allow us to feel Toby’s frustration and big heart. Ben Foster, in yet another bravura performance, is all spit, vinegar, hilarity and violence, while actually saying very little. Pretty sure we’ll hear a lot of discussion surrounding his name for Best Supporting come January. I’d bet the house, however, that one of those five names will belong to Jeff Bridges. This is the amazing Jeff Bridges…the one who creates characters that stay with us, like his turns in “Baker Boys”, “Lebowski”, “True Grit” and “Crazy Heart”. Not just another Texas shitkicker, Bridges’ Texas Ranger is smart, in control, filled with knowledge and a world-weary sense of humor. Fabulous. Special mention to the locals/smaller characters that populate the film…none more so than Katy Mixon and Margaret Bowman, both servers in two UNFORGETTABLE (and wildly differing) restaurant scenes.
The score, provided by the (quickly becoming) ubiquitous pair of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, would be a great stand alone listen, but I felt the usage of lyrics got in the way – took me out of the world of the film. Warren Ellis, by himself, might have been a better choice here, as his instrumental contributions really accent the incredible visuals.
As the summer movie season comes to a close, we can begin to whittle away at those which deserve special mention. Thus, it’s easy for me to write that, while “Sing Street” remains my favorite film of the year, “Hell Or High Water” is easily the BEST film thus far in 2016. This is a DO NOT MISS FILM! Enjoy!
Written on September 13th, 2016
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