Hell Or High Water Review

Hell Or High Water Poster
Title: Hell Or High Water
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Chris Pine,
Ben Foster,
Jeff Bridges
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Runtime: 1 Hour 42 mins
Music: Nick Cave,
Warren Ellis
Studio: Studio Canal
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Aug 12 2016
UK: Sep 09 2016
See If You Like: Heat,
True Grit,

Coming from Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan, and Starred Up director David Mackenzie, and with a cast headlined by Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond), and Ben Foster (The Mechanic), you’d like to hope a big screen crime/drama such as Hell or High Water would be good. It’s not. It’s brilliant; a cinematic tour-de-force, which is not only the perfect way to exit the summer blockbuster season, but easily one of the best films of the year.

Pine and Foster star as two bank-robbing brothers, out to raise enough cash to pay off their mother’s debts, pay back her loan, and give her ranch to Pine’s sons; all by robbing branches of the bank who fleeced their mother with a dodgy reverse mortgage; while Bridges’ character rests on the other side of the law; a close-to-retirement Texas Ranger out to stop the robbers at any cost.

Coming with a soft tone, and deliberately downbeat vibe, Hell Or High Water moves on and on like a steady freight train slowly gaining ground until it eventually reaches its gripping climax; while it is a film about bank robbers, and the chase to catch them, it’s far from the most action-packed film, but instead relies on something much more powerful, characters.

Thankfully taking the time to invest in each and every one of its main characters, over the course of the slow-and-steady, film you really become invested in the journey each one of these men are taking; Pine is desperate to secure the ranch for his sons; Foster appreciates the chance to reconnect with his younger brother (after a spell in prison), and is proud of the actions he’s taking; while Bridges’ enjoying his final hunt, as he attempts to take his mind off his impending retirement; and Bridges’ partner Alberto (played by Twilight’s Gil Birmingham – recently seen in several episodes of Banshee) is not only still learning, but appreciating the chance to run with his mentor one last time before he inherits the top-job; and it’s the care and attention taken to crafting these characters, making them believable, realistic, and subtly showcasing their relationships with one another which will make you care for each and everyone of them, understand their motivations, and actually wanting everyone to come out on top (while always knowing it can’t play out that way).

Pine and Foster are truly brilliant together, exuding a sense of real history and camaraderie, their enthralling charisma and chemistry ensures that while you never forget the wrong they’re doing (they even wrestle with it, and their poor chances of success, themselves), you can easily forgive it, and will the pair onto success. Likewise Bridges and Birmingham are a joy to watch; from their unspoken mutual respect, to Bridges’ constant teasing of Alberto, it’s fun, endearing, and natural.

Yet it’s not only the superb writing (which is undeniably excellent throughout) which helps flesh out the characters; as each and everyone of the main stars excels in this perfectly cast thriller, and brings a trio of powerhouse performances to combine with a flawless script, and make a thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience.


David Mackenzie’s direction is brilliant (especially given the step-up in scale and scope from Starred Up – another great film propelled by powerful leads), Starred Up/Winter’s Bone‘s Michael McDonough’s cinematography is breathtaking; lending a bleak but beautiful outlook to a gorgeous landscape littered with the poor and downtrodden residents of West Texas; and the music (both original score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, licensed tracks, and the country songs littering the OST) is well placed, paced, and perfectly fitting, meaning there is very little if anything to grumble about with Hell Or High Water; a true modern masterpiece, and one of the best films released this year.

So while it might not be the action-packed romp you may hope for with a film revolving around two bank-robbing brothers, the flawless writing, fantastic performances, stunning cinematography, stirring music, and delectable direction all combine to make a truly magnificent movie; a must-see, character-driven, cops-n-robbers, heist thriller in the vein of Heat, The Town, and True Grit/western vibe which will not only leave you stunned when the credits roll, but restore your faith in movies once again; because Hell Or High Water is not only the perfect antidote to the summer blockbuster season, it’s proof Hollywood can still make great films.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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