Two brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) lay waste to rural Texas, robbing banks at sun-up and hightailing it before the police (led by Jeff Bridges) can even get their morning coffee. In the midst of this blur of action that is the opening to Hell or High Water, we can notice a few things: brilliant staging, an adept grasp of setting and atmosphere, an engaging balance of tone.
With each bank robbery, we learn more about the two brothers. Their characters are fleshed out to the point where it isn’t difficult to side with them on their renegade crime spree. Then enter two Texas rangers (Bridges and Gil Birmingham). Given the sympathy for the criminals, the audience should view the law as the antagonistic force. Instead these two characters get a similar treatment in getting fully developed. What results is a cat-and-mouse chase that envelops you because of your investment in every piece involved in the game.
Hell or High Water has a fun Western throwback feel to it in the opening act. The outlaw abandon of Bonnie & Clyde is in full force. This smoothly transitions into a down-to-earth character drama that is enrapturing. Foster and Pine channel rough and tumble charisma to make a wonderful foil pair. Both of these actors give career high performances, and Jeff Bridges with his gravely drawl is just a cherry on the top.
Hell or High Water is a marvelous rural-scape snapshot, an encapsulation of blue collar anger and southern charm. Everything from the cello score to the panning establishing shots screams of a precisely constructed ambiance that fuels the film’s effective pulse. Hell or High Water is a must-see.
As always, thanks for reading!
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)