Review: Hell or High Water

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By Uma Kasibhatla

Although nominated for Best Picture and three other awards in the 89th Academy Awards, “Hell or High Water” is one of those movies that somehow skated under everyone’s radar.  The movie was only released in a limited amount of theaters but still managed to capture nominations at the season’s biggest award shows, including the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, and the Golden Globes.

Source: IGN.com
Source: IGN.com

The movie boasted a strong cast, with Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges headlining the film as Toby Howard and Marcus Hamilton respectively, along with Ben Foster in a leading role as Toby’s brother, Tanner.  Pine was barely recognizable in the film, with his trademark blue eyes and eyebrows serving as the only notable similarity between Captain Kirknd Toby.  Bridges delivered a very strong performance as Marcus, an older Texas Ranger.  He adds a villainous character to the story if you’re cheering for the brothers to be successful.

Why do the brothers even turn to robbery of all things?  Their property just became an oil mine and is now a good source of revenue.  But here’s the catch – there’s a loan on the property and the brothers can’t make a profit until they pay it off.  Hence the obvious conclusion – let’s rob banks! Marcus’s (Jeff Bridges) intentions are equally as vague and the only real reason he’s chasing after the brothers is to catch one last victory before taking his mandatory retirement.

The movie starts off with a calm introduction but quickly becomes more than that.  The sepia-tinted, dusty old town becomes much more as two inexperienced bank robbers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), take on a newfound life of crime.  The tension between the brothers is obvious from the first robbery scene and adds an element of mystery of the movie.  Tanner and Toby face problems throughout the film and spend a large amount of time arguing with each other; however, their true personalities shine through their interactions with each other and details about each character are slowly revealed throughout the movie.

Ultimately, this movie is Best Picture-worthy because of how all the elements of film are brought together.  As Calvin Wilson from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, “Much more than a genre piece, “Hell or High Water” takes you places that you thought the big screen had forgotten.”  He goes on to talk about how the movie doesn’t just focus on the plot The music score perfectly fits the visuals on the screen and even the smallest details were captured through the music.  For example, when the brothers drive from bank to bank in the car, the soundtrack blends perfectly with the scenery and the Texas countryside is beautifully captured through wide-range shots.  The director, David Mackenzie, did an amazing job, and for that reason alone, this is a movie worth watching.  The costumes are well put-together, the soundtrack, as said before, is amazing, and the dialogue is witty and sharp.  When all of this is put together, the result is stunning.

The visual effects of this movie are absolutely gorgeous and that is what separates this movie from the rest.  The shooting locations were selected very well and the locales really add a new dimension of detail to the movie.  The aura of the movie is set from the very beginning scene with the dusty town.  Visually, the audience can clearly see how the small Texas towns are split between the 21st century and the older times.  The plot wasn’t anything special and is reminiscent of many other Western films.  The movie is slow-moving and wasn’t anything spectacular, as the ending is pretty predictable.  However, the performances by Foster, Pine, and Bridges are fantastic! Pine’s role in this movie is one few in which he was able to show off his rather impressive acting chops.  Foster, as always, put on a great performance and does a great job of delivering his dry, yet humorous comments. His character adds a more subtle comedic tone to the movie compared to Bridges’ loud and slightly obnoxious character.

“Hell or High Water”  is a solid Oscar contender. Although it is fairly similar to other Westerns, such as the classic “No Country for Old Men,” it manages to put its own, unique twist to the movie with its direction and visual appeal.

 

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