Review: Hell or High Water

By Christian DiMartino

Hell or High Water is the film I’ve waited all summer for, and I didn’t even know it.

There’s been plenty of good films this summer, and in some cases, excellent (The Lobster and Captain America: Civil War). But nothing I would call perfect. So these last few weeks, I’ve really been waiting. Been waiting for something amazing. I hoped it would be Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad, or Sausage Party, and while three of those were good (the bad one is obvious, if you haven’t heard or unfortunately witnessed it for yourself), they weren’t anything to do a backflip over. Hell or High Water is backflip worthy. Too bad I’m fat.

I’ll do my best to avoid ruining any of the constant surprises, so I’ll just give you the basic pitch. Set in Texas, and with a No Country for Old Men kind of vibe, Hell or High Water focuses on two storylines: one involves two brothers, Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), who in an attempt to save their ranch, begin going on a bank robbing spree. Part of what is so compelling here are these two characters. Aside from trying to save their ranch, what leads them to this? Tanner appears to just do it for the thrill. But what is Toby gaining from it? That’s a mystery that plays throughout. The other story revolves around Marcus (Jeff Bridges), the cop who is trying to hunt them down. He spends half of the film cracking wise with his partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham).

That’s about all I’ll say, and all that needs to be said, because this is a film that needs to be experienced. Immediately. Of all of the films I have seen this year, Hell or High Water is the only one I’d consider perfect. What director David McKenzie has done here is pretty much create a modern day western. We feel it not only in terms of setting, but also in terms of story. I had heard it called a modern day western before I had seen it, and I wasn’t sure what that meant. But it’s pretty apparent within the first ten minutes.

Beautifully filmed by Giles Nuttgens and perfectly scored as well, part of what makes this film sing, aside from the performances (which will be covered in a second) is the ingenious screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, who should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for writing last year’s Sicario. Sheridan and McKenzie have kind of a tricky job here, because they have to keep the film grounded in reality and seriousness. But yet there’s plenty of hilarious moments, coming mostly from the Bridges character. It’s the best screenplay of the year thus far, both sharp and surprising and filled with stings.

Which leads me to the performances. Pine has never been this impressive. He’s usually reduced to the sort of douchey role, but he gets a chance to really shine here. As does Foster, who we always knew could act. What a terribly underrated actor Foster is, and what a great performance he gives here. The same goes for Bridges. I mean, he’s The Dude, man. What he does here is something he could probably do in his sleep, but he just so happens to marvelously chew up the scenery.

You’ll wonder where the film is going. But man, just wait until that last half hour, whenever the punches are really being packed. We also realize that there’s more to Hell or High Water than meets the eye. I have no problem in saying that this is the best film of the year so far. I really just can’t find any room to find fault.

See it, then spread the word.

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