CGB Review of Hell or High Water

I don’t know about you, but if I was at the bank and Chris Pine came in to rob us, I’d be so focused on those beautiful blue eyes of his that he’d take all my money.

This is my review of Hell or High Water!

hell-or-high-water-trailer

Toby Howard is a divorced father who robs banks with his volitale brother Tanner in order to gather more than enough money to pass on to his [Toby’s] young sons and ex-wife. After the death of their ailing mother, Toby and Tanner  Along the way, the dysfunctional Howard brothers must avoid two Texas rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), who are on their trail.

The Hits
Chris Pine and Ben Foster have incredibly believable chemistry as brothers who both love and hate each other.  Toby’s strong, silent demeanor and Tanner’s violent energy play off one another very well.  I do think the biggest standout has got to be Ben Foster as the loose-cannon Tanner.  A self-serving former inmate with nowhere else to go and no one willing to stand by him, the only unselfish act that Tanner is capable of is helping out his brother and even then, he does so on his own terms and by his own means.
Jeff Bridges is basically playing Jeff Bridges, but by golly, he sure does a good job at it!  Like Pine and Foster, Bridges and Birmingham also have an enjoyable rapport.  Granted, Marcus “bonds” with Alberto via jokes about Native Americans, but they look out for one another and appreciate each other’s company.  In a way, their dynamic resembles Toby and Tanner’s; Marcus is loose and lacks filter, while Alberto is more collected and prudent. I really appreciate how the familial bond between Toby and Tanner and the professional bond between Marcus and Alberto mirror each other.
The script exercises subtley very well.  No one goes on an expositonal spiel, plot points aren’t blatantly spelled out; rather the visuals and the character interactions do the talking.  The writer of last year’s “Sicario” also wrote the script for this film and it’s clear that he knows plenty about rural living, hence he uses that knowledge to great effect here in this movie.  Speaking of which, like “Sicario,” the camerawork here is excellent!  The opening scene is one long tracking shot that builds the suspence perfectly.  One shot I profoundly remember is of Toby and Tanner messing around with each other in the waking hours of dawn; we mostly see their silhouettes against a brightening sky, which illustrates the dark and light aspects of their relationship.

The Misses
If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, they build up the Texas Midland Bank as the main antagonist.  However, in the actual movie, Texas Midland Bank is more of an indirect antagonist than a direct and active one.  We learn that the bank cheated Toby and Tanner’s mother before she died and it’s clear that the Bank is a player in Toby’s financial issues, but these revelations are presented to us after the fact, so the Bank’s presence as an antagonistic force carries little weight.   This would not have been an issue had the trailer focused more on Toby and Tanner’s run from Marcus and Alberto.

Overall, Hell or High Water is an intriguing slow burn, a carefully-crafted character study of both cops and robbers.  Despite that one small hiccup about the fictional bank, Hell or High Water rests on the shoulders of stunning cinematography, nuanced storytelling and the thoughtful performances from its leading men.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.

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