Review: Hell or High Water

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Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges

Summary: Two brothers execute an elaborate plan to rob banks in Texas in an effort to keep the ranch their recently departed mother owned. A cop on the eve of his retirement works with his partner to catch them.

Hell or High Water snuck by everyone over the summer. I believe this was in theaters around August and just about nobody saw it, including me. I would not have sought out Hell or High Water if I hadn’t heard some very complementary reviews from some critics I tend to agree with. Hell or High Water is worth your time, it’s a smart genre flick with some great performances.

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The most talked about performance in Hell or High Water came from Jeff Bridges as the stubborn, racially insensitive cop doing his best do delay his upcoming retirement. He does a great job with this character, but he’s kind of just doing what Jeff Bridges does. I feel like I’ve seen him play this role before. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Chris Pine. I had no idea that he could do anything more than look like a Ken doll. I know that’s not a fair assessment because I haven’t really seen him in anything, but based on the kinds of movies he has done in the past I assumed he was just there to look pretty. He does a great job and I hope Hell or High Water leads to him getting meatier roles in the future, he can definitely pull it off.

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Ben Foster was a name that was tossed around as a possible Best Supporting Actor nominee for this role and I understand why. Ultimately, I’m glad he didn’t end up on that list because this performance is miles behind some of those who actually did get nominated but he’s very good. He’s a recognizable character actor who you’ve probably seen in something – he has a long list of credits on his IMDB page. He could be a name to follow in the coming years, I could see him doing well with a Fitzgerald-like role from The Revenant.

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Hell or High Water looks great. You can credit the cinematographers and editors for that but I think the art department did a really great job creating this environment. The production design and set decoration feel very realistic, as if they’ve been occupied by the characters in this film for years. They dressed the set to match the environment, desolate and empty. This is intended to look like a dying town, and these muted browns and yellows and olive tones do a great job of really driving that message home.

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This movie never really found its audience and I wonder if that would have been different if it had been released in 2009 or 2010? There’s a lot of focus paid to sort of “Robin-Hood-ing” the banks. Chris Pine has a line early in the film, “We ain’t stealing from you, we’re stealing from the bank”. Hell or High Water hinges on us sympathizing with the main characters and I think that would have been easier for audiences to do when they were watching their neighbors and their families losing their homes at the height of the recession.

Final Verdict: B
Hell or High Water is a solid, well-made film. It’s definitely not the best thing I’ve seen in 2016 but it’s worth watching. You can tell that there are some very talented people behind this film, it just didn’t really click, which I suppose is a reflection on the director, but he still made a good movie.


Oscar Consideration

Nominated for…
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actor, Jeff Bridges
Best Original Screenplay
Best Editing

I don’t think Hell or High Water really has the chance to win in any of these categories, but the fact that this small genre movie was included in these nominations is impressive.

Won…
 n/a

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