Thursday, 23 February 2017
Review: Hell Or High Water (UK Cert 15)
A surprise inclusion for the Best Picture Oscar, Hell Or High Water is a crime thriller-cum-Western, written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) and directed by David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Hallam Foe, Starred Up)
Brothers Toby and Tanner Howard are robbing banks. But not just any banks; they're only targeting branches of Texas Midland Bank. And they're not taking anything from the customers or the tellers; they're taking money from the banks themselves. After two robberies- where very little money has actually been stolen- Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his deputy Alberto Parker are handed the case. But why these branches? Why so little money? Where will they hit next? And can Hamilton and Parker stop them before they do?
Hell Or High Water is a bit of an odd fish, to be fair. It's part Western, part heist movie, part thriller, part social commentary, part action. Yet from this Frankenstein's Monster patchwork comes a thoughtful, well-made film that neatly balances the different genres into a mostly cohesive whole. The social commentary is nicely underplayed (no tubthumping here) whilst the Western setting is used to good effect.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play the Howard brothers, with Pine as the sensible, stoic Toby and Foster as the wilder, unpredictable Tanner. The camaraderie between the two is nice to see, and really helps to sell the family relationship. While Foster gets the more showy role (and excels at it), Pine gives a nuanced and restrained performance which is all the more powerful in relief to Foster's exuberance. Jeff Bridges is superb in his supporting role as the grizzled and curmudgeonly Hamilton, also forming a nice partnership with Gil Birmingham (who plays Parker). Hamilton is a grumpy old man, but still has an incisive and analytical mind- indeed, at one point, he works out the brothers' next move before they decide themselves.
The film has been very well cast, even down to minor roles such as an old man in one of the first banks the brothers rob (Buck Taylor) and a hard-ass waitress at a T-Bone steak restaurant (Margaret Bowman). These minor characters not only add some levity to proceedings but really help to give the flavour of the Texan towns they're set in.
The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens is particularly good, making the most of the impressive landscapes of New Mexico (doubling for Texas). The film also has a superb soundtrack- including original music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis- but also using existing songs by Waylon Jennings, Scott H. Biram, Gillian Welch and Chris Stapleton to provide an evocative soundscape that really enhances the film.
I originally wanted to see the film when it was released in cinemas back in September but didn't get the chance. I picked it up on DVD and I'm glad I did. A solid, decent film.
Rating: 4 out of 5