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Review: Hell or High Water

8 min read
Ben Foster and Chris Pine star in CBS FIlms' HELL OR HIGH WATER

Since humans from every walk of life tend to only view things from their perspective, I guess it’s normal for movies to want to tell us as viewers how to feel, think and behave. This can be quite heavy handed, but it can also be subtle at times. Then again there films like Hell or High Water. Movies like this aren’t all that interested in doing that. Some are actually interested in telling a tale filled with drama and an honest amount of value.

Hell or High Water is about two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who set out to hit various banks across Texas in order to make some serious cash. They have a set of rules that if followed, will see them execute their plans as careful as possible and get away scot-free while avoiding any casualties. The plan also depends on officers such as Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) not being able to track them down before they accomplish their goal. With his level of determination, avoiding the likes of him for too long seems unlikely.

As expected, there’s quite a bit of aggression in Hell or High Water, but it’s not enough to sensationalize what’s here or make it too unrealistic. In fact, it can be said that the way that and pretty much everything else is handled makes it feel more believable and more understandable in terms of the motives the characters have. Doing it in this style allows the feel to have that insular tone that’s needed for such an intimate story about a handful of guys in the heart of Texas.

This could have been made into a film with a great deal of emotion due to its characters and all that they have at stake in this high pressure game of “cops and robbers.” Instead, the emotion is subdued since they choose to never did too deep as they focus on the players who are directly involved almost exclusively. Sure, they tell us what they’re chasing after and why, but much of that is never really seen all that much outside of a couple of scenes.

This approach creates a film that isn’t that interested in making its audience emotionally invested or tied down to its players on either side of the law. I guess this could be a negative, but in my view, it’s a positive since it allows us to simply analyze the motives and choices of the characters. Doing this allows this to be a more analytical experience in a way that’s more simple than usual.

To deliver this type of narrative, a list of actors with exceptional pedigrees have been successfully recruited. This not only shows the capabilities of actors like Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, but it also illustrates the positive acting qualities of the unheralded Ben Foster. Now, I’ve known of his abilities for quite a while, but this is one of those roles that could get him the kind of attention he deserves from studio execs and directors looking for quality acting.

In its totality, Hell or High Water is a simple movie that’s able to create a rewarding experience focusing on complicated questions about morality in a world filled with ambiguity. It doesn’t involve anything that’s asking you to forego your own views, but it is asking you to at least understand the views and motives of others that we’re watching. In this day and age, it’s rare to find a film smart enough, patient enough and capable enough to accomplish something like that.

Rating: R

Director: David Mackenzie

Jeff Bridges
Chris Pine
Ben Foster
Gil Birmingham

Film Length: 102 minutes

Release Date: August 12, 2016

  • Score - 7.5/10
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