A fantastic neo western film with very strong performances that will surely see some recognition at the Academy Awards
The story at the centre of Hell or High Water has been told many times before. Robbers hitting banks across the country in order to raise some much needed cash. However, the film, directed by David Mackenzie manages to breathe new life into the western genre, and provides a fascinating look at the desperate struggles of two men in the worldwide recession.
The two brothers, played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster go from bank to bank spreading fear between bank workers as they manage to get large amounts of money in a short amount of time. Legend of the screen, Jeff Bridges plays Marcus Hamilton, the sheriff hot on their heels. His partner, Alberto Parker, played by Gil Birmingham, seems to be constantly exasperated by his friend’s attitude, and Hamilton’s continuous comments towards him about his heritage seem off at first. What is clear as the film plays out is that there is a huge amount of mutual respect between the two.
Foster’s character, Tanner seems to be constantly on edge, and a threat towards the brothers’ chances of getting away with their scheme. As the sheriffs get closer, his actions become more rash and violent, and Foster’s performance is astonishing at times. Foster has received some award nominations, and it remains to be seen whether he will be recognised at the Oscars, but his performance as the psychopathic bank robber is one of the best of the last year.
The film’s score is fantastic and adds to the tension as the film reaches its dramatic conclusion. The last half hour as the brothers reach a standoff with the authorities is stunning and it’s impossible to guess how it will all end. The film’s only real negative is the fact that it seems to lag a little in the middle, and there seems to be an excess of build up before the film really gets into gear.
The film could easily have turned into a bog-standard crime thriller, but through great performances of the leads, and the clever script that combines humour and tense interactions. The film has a number of stand-out scenes, particularly in the tense interactions between the brother’s and the law enforcement. By the end of the film, you will be left wanting more and there is a certain degree of ambiguity as to the interpretation of the ending. Hopefully the film will receive some recognition at the Academy Awards next month, as it is a film that will be remembered for years to come and may spark a renaissance for the western genre.
Hell or High Water (2016), directed by Mackenzie, is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by StudioCanal. Certificate 15.