By Michael Kaye
Hell or High Water (Review)
2016's been a very interesting year for me. I'm not going to be as negative about this summer as a majority of the film community, but I can admit that overall it was a bit underwhelming, at least when it comes to the blockbusters. The indies, however, have been kicking ass, with a great deal of them guaranteed to make it into my top 10 of the year. One of those is today's film, a western heist thriller starring Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water.
The story is pretty simple. A divorced dad and his ex-con brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family's farm in West Texas.
Man is this a good movie, honestly it was the best way to close out the summer. I would be shocked if this didn't get at least one Oscar nomination this year, but more on that later. Here are some of my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is amazing, everyone turns in a fantastic performance. Chris Pine, outside of the rebooted Star Trek films, is pretty underrated. He has the least "showy" role in the film, acting in many ways as the straight man to his brother, played brilliantly by Ben Foster, and his criminal antics. These two have great chemistry, as you can really feel their history throughout the film. I really hope this is the movie that finally pushes Ben Foster over the edge, because he was supposed to be a household name a long time ago yet has not quite gotten the right opportunity. If I was ready to predict the one guaranteed Oscar nomination, it would be Jeff Bridges for Best Supporting actor as Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger in pursuit of the Howard brother.
This movie was written by Taylor Sheridan, who previously wrote last year's Sicario, and is currently working on its sequel Soldaldo. One of his greatest strengths is not necessarily plot, but rather character development. I'm not gonna lie, there's nothing exactly new about any of the story beats, it's really just your typical heist film formula. But what makes it unique is the character motivations, and the fact that there aren't necessarily any definitive heroes or villains. Not only that, but taking a queue from the Coen Brothers, this movie has a lot of great subtle humor, especially during the first half of the film.
You know where else that humor might have come from? Director David Mackenzie, who I'm embarrassed to admit is a filmmaker whose films are seriously absent from my repertoire. I do like his style from what I've seen in this film. It's got a real laid back vibe to it, but when the action kicks in, it's pretty fun and exciting. I mentioned before how character development is this movie's greatest strength, but the setting can also be a character in its own right, and that's exactly how I felt about its portrayal of Texas. The world in which this film exists feels lived in, almost like instead of watching a movie, you're watching a day in the life of two criminals trying to makes ends meet. There is some gorgeous cinematography from Giles Nuttgens, especially the scenes of the Howard brothers on the road.
Finally, the music composed by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame is amazing. I'm not really the biggest fan of country music per se, but here it's put to good use. This music, combined with the cinematography and the sound mixing really help to lock you into the setting.
If I had one minor criticism, it's not even my own, but a potential reason why some may not be as invested in this movie, it's the pacing. Some people just don't have the patience for a slow burn western such as this, but westerns are some of my all time favorite films, so that was never an issue for me.
Hell or High Water is definitely at the very least the best film of the summer, and is floating somewhere in my top 3 of the year overall. Everything falls into place quite nicely, with the characters and the environment doing most of the heavy lifting. Please Academy, don't neglect this movie like you did with Sicario last year, and that goes same for the general moviegoing audience as well!
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Hell or High Water, and if so what did you think? Also, what are your favorite indies and smaller films from this year so far? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned as always for more awesome content coming your way!