Review: Hell Or High Water (★★★★½)

4.5 stars

Hell Or High Water is a straight forward rootin’ tootin’ heist movie. The kind that doesn’t get made anymore, let alone get nominated for Best Picture. The plot is simple, yet it’s the fact that David MacKenzie takes the time to really develop his characters that adds a vivid richness to the world. The movie challenges morality and integrity which, by its finale, makes you question who really is at fault for the events of the movie.

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In West Texas, Texas Midlands Banks are being attacked at gunpoint by two brothers for nothing more than their petty cash. Nothing above $20 bills. Two Texas Rangers set out to find more information about the heists and attempt to get one step ahead of the brothers. That’s all I really feel needs to be known before seeing Hell Or High Water. This is because the pacing is magnificent and we learn the right information just at the right time for it to throw a ‘spanner in the works’ and change our outlook on the situation and its characters.

The two brothers, Toby and Tanner, are played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, respectively. They do an incredible job of showing two binary, yet very connected people. I couldn’t even tell it was Ben Foster when watching this, he just dissolved into his character. On the other hand, we have Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham as the two Texas Rangers. Jeff Bridges does the same voice we’ve seen countless times in movies like True Grit. The low ‘rumble mumble’ is what I’ve affectionally come to call it. Yet, I really like it. It works wonderfully for the character he is portraying and I love how the lack of respect for articulation symbolises his lack of respect for most of the people around him.

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The development of these characters is done with such nuance that I didn’t really know I cared about them until the final 30 minutes of the movie. Saying that this isn’t a character drama. It is a crime thriller, a modern western and an action movie and Hell Or High Water pays off big time in that respect. The scenes are tense, the action is beautifully shot and every impact has so much weight to it. This is not like John Wick, with bodies flying everywhere. Every bullet fired makes you think, ‘Oh Shit,’ and it’s a joy to behold.

The cinematography is gorgeous. Gaps in the movie are filled with these expansive baron wastelands with huge empty skies that really emphasise just how empty a lot of America is. I also saw it as a representation of the lack of escape the brothers face. There really is everywhere to run, but nowhere to hide.

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Hell Or High Water is my surprise of the Oscars this year. It’s not trying to be anything more than the story it wants to tell, yet the expert craftsmanship of character development and cinematherapy makes Hell Or High Water one of my favourite films of the year.

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