Liz T., here…
Director David Mackenzie’s latest film, Hell or High Water, is a perfect example of how slow and steady wins the race. The film is a little slow to start, but once it gets going, it’s fantastic. The story centers around two brothers, Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) who are desperately trying to save their mother’s farm and keep it in the family. The brothers are literally under the gun to find the money and decide the quickest way to make the deadline is to rob banks. Toby is intelligent, calm, cool and collected and the brains behind the operation. Tanner is an ex con hothead who relishes the crime spree and does little to control either his rage or his inclination toward violence.
As their plan to get fast cash slowly unravels, they are pursued by two Texas rangers – Marcus (Jeff Bridges) is an experienced veteran who is working his last case. His partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) is along for the ride, an old friend who is willing to endure Marcus’ not so gentle teasing and curmudgeonly ways.
Fortunately, this film is elevated from your average cops and robbers movie. It is enhanced and nuanced in large parts due to a poignant script by Taylor Sheridan and cinematography that reinforces the message. Sheridan tells the story of the working mans’ struggle to hold onto his land and fiscally survive when large companies have all of the power and control. It is difficult to not empathize on some level with the plight of the Howard brothers. You may not agree with their methods, but you can understand the reasons behind their actions.
Another strength of the film is its use of opposites. Each yin has its equally strong yang. Toby is contained while Tanner is wild. Marcus is old school, after the criminals and unconcerned with the means to get there, while Alberto is inoffensive and by the books. The greatest opposite is the Texas scenery and landscaping. The times they are a changing, and it is apparent as you see the towns that are being shutdown, the cowboys struggling to survive and the large buildings that are overshadowing what once was. The message is constantly reinforced as the story continues.
Bridges, Foster and Pine all give strong performances and easily transform into their characters. Although slow to start, Hell or High Water finishes strong and will pull viewers in.