Review: Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water
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Hell or High Water review Jeff Bridges Chris Pine Ben Foster

PLOT: Two brothers plan a string of bank robberies in order to pay off the mortgage on their family farm while a marshal on the verge of retirement tracks them down.

REVIEW: HELL OR HIGH WATER tells the simplest, most predictable tale possible and manages to keep us riveted every step of the way. Two brothers rob banks, not exactly gracefully, while a gruff old lawman on the verge of retirement pursues them. We've seen it countless times. But the film, written by Taylor Sheridan (SICARIO) and directed by David Mackenzie (STARRED-UP), is peppered with so many interesting nuances and incisive character details that you truly feel the gravity of the situation from start to finish. When things might've played out routinely, Mackenzie and Sheridan have given an old song a new rendition.

The larcenous siblings are Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), and their sudden crime spree is one not prompted by greed but necessity. Their family farm is on the verge of foreclosure by a cold-hearted bank (any other kind?) and it's Toby's plan to hold up various branches of that very same bank, taking small amounts at a time, until they're ultimately able to pay them off. Toby's a desperate man, not a criminal, but the fact that his brother is a live-wire, recently released from prison, gives him the gumption that they can actually pull off these heists. They're not particularly violent or cruel during their robberies, just insistent, and they're able to get things done on their first two attempts. The third, however, is not smart: it's impulsively carried out by Tanner on his own and it's enough to put a bullseye on their backs.

Hell or High Water review Jeff Bridges Chris Pine Ben Foster

Their eventual pursuer is Marcus (Jeff Bridges), a folksy marshal who's about to face a foreclosure of his own, that of his career. Like a million aging lawmen before him, Marcus is looking down the barrel of retirement, and he's simultaneously dreading the notion of sitting around doing nothing while learning to come to peace with it. These robberies, though, they've piqued his interest, and the old dog is roused into sniffing out just what's behind these peculiar crimes. Joined by his "half breed" partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) - whom Marcus taunts mercilessly but lovingly - Marcus uses his still-sharp intuition to place himself right in the path of the brothers, who only need one more big score to finish what they started.

See, you read that synopsis and you feel like you already know this movie. And, in a way, you do. HELL OR HIGH WATER is not unlike the Bridges character; traditional and leisurely and happy with the way things are. But also shrewd, and agile when the occasion calls for it. Mackenzie's film is all about the quiet moments and the way these men contemplate their lives, but every now and then it springs into action, electrifying the proceedings and adding significant heft to those scenes of laconic rumination. The script tells us just enough about these men to help us connect the dots while holding just enough back to allow us to continue guessing at who they really are. Sheridan is wise enough to know these characters would be boring if they were painted in simple black and white, and he's willing to risk our appreciation of them in order to make them complex individuals.

Hell or High Water review Jeff Bridges Chris Pine Ben Foster

The movie doesn't shy away from real life issues, like the power banks hold over us and the omnipresence of guns in everyday life (especially Texas), but it's not preachy. It has things to say, and it lays out its thoughts plainly, effortlessly weaving its conceits into the framework of the story. With this and SICARIO, Sheridan has proven himself incredibly adept in infusing suspenseful thrillers with clearly articulated ponderings on the state of affairs today.

The quartet of main actors dominate almost every scene of the film; there are a handful of supporting characters, but they come in and out of the film fleetingly. Bridges can do no wrong when he's playing the gruff codger with a twinkle in his eye; hell, it's what he does best at this stage in his career. Marcus is a character that almost certainly could only have been played by Bridges (okay, maybe Nick Nolte). Foster, too, slips easily into the role of Tanner, an impulsive cad who one minute seems like the nicest guy in the world and the next appears capable of genuine menace. Foster's made a nice career of playing baby-faced sociopaths, but Tanner is a little older, a little more worn out, a dusty, hopeless product of his environment. And Pine really becomes a different man here. None of his usual charm can be detected; instead he wears a disposition that's haggard and despondent. The many ways in which the world has beaten him up reside on his face at every moment; it's a very good performance in a very good movie.

Source: JoBlo.com



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