It’s always nice to see a Western that’s a refreshing take on the genre. This year’s “Hell or High Water” is a modern-day Western that wasn’t well-advertised, but I’m here to tell you to see the film. It’s the best of 2016 so far.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster are estranged brothers, Toby and Tanner. The film opens with them clumsily robbing three banks in one day, and we learn that they’re trying to save their family farm. Toby is the mastermind while Tanner is his mentor at armed robbery.
Meanwhile, a soon-to-retire Texas ranger, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) learns of the brothers’ spree and knows that they have a goal in mind. He’s tailing them, knowing it’s his last ride as a ranger before he turns in his badge and gun.
“Hell or High Water” opens with a bang when Toby and Tanner rob a bank early in the morning. We see graffiti on the wall regarding the bank’s greed and extreme wide-shots of rundown buildings, establishing the film as a cynical Western about poverty and greed.
Toby and Tanner are well-established in the first act of the movie. Toby wants to provide for his kids while Tanner is helping him out of both the thrill and unconditional love. Hamilton is a foil to both brothers, being as calculating as Toby and as thrill-seeking as Tanner.
“Hell or High Water” is restrained, quirky, and well-paced with a lot to say about death and financial hardships. It’s a slow burn thriller that focuses more on the characters and dialogue instead of dreadful violence. There are a couple of bloody shootouts, but this doesn’t occur until the climax.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster both deliver expressive and charismatic performances as the troubled siblings. We know they’re flawed, but we love them anyway. Bridges is great as always, and will likely secure an Oscar nomination.
Taylor Sheridan of “Sicario” penned the script for “Hell or High Water” and once again mashes his love for Westerns with a topical, poetic narrative. If you’re craving a smaller, character-driven film over the standard Blockbusters we’ve gotten this summer, see “Hell or High Water.” You won’t regret it.