This review was written by Anthony J Digioia. Follow him and his website here for more awesome reviews: SilverScreen Analysis
“HELL OR HIGH WATER” is directed by David Mackenzie and stars; Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. The script follows a pair of brothers who begin robbing a string of small banks to save their families Texas farm from foreclosure.
Like it sounds, it’s a simple premise for a simple plot that heavily relies on the dialogue and character performances to carry the entertainment, and it absolutely succeeds in both aspects. Chris Pine and Ben Foster were both excellent as brothers. Their personalities were much the same in some instances, while being completely different in some of their beliefs, and views on life. Both Pine and Foster pull off creating these personality traits with full intended impact.
Their chemistry was excellent once again, like it was in “The Finest Hours” as they build a rapport with one another that effectively sells them as brothers that love each other. That hold a common respect for one another, while not agreeing with one another in some scenarios. Together they create characters that are not good guys by any means, but they have a motivation you can connect with to help build interest in their characters outcome in the film.
Jeff Bridges was awesome as well and perfectly fitted for this role. He embodies the small-town sheriff and exuded the Texas gruff needed to make him a grounded character people can relate with. Bridges character also created an entertaining dynamic with his partner Alberto played excellently by Gil Birmingham. They had an awkward relationship, but shared a silent mutual respect, and the well-written dialogue captured it perfectly as watching these two guys from different backgrounds and cultures creates some amusingly blunt conversations.
The story held a relatively swift pace yet was methodical at the same time. It tells two very compelling stories and develops them in a timely manner that builds anticipation as you await their paths to inevitably cross. It follows the same formula in that aspect as “No Country for Old Men” and just like in that film, tension was evenly built in this one as well. This was such an engaging film because it pulls you in with solid dialogue between the characters that seamlessly develops the meat of the script. Every word counts and it makes for several compelling conversations throughout.
High amounts of quality were also shown in the locations, the rural Texas countryside was perfectly captured, and added with a cold musical score builds, a great setting to a story that effectively lures you in. Everything about this film was subtle and it results in much greater impact. This was clearly a crime-drama but some of the robberies, and a collection other scenes, capture some gritty violence that does not hold back. Watching, you can feel the intensity of the scenes mount as each one passes and it is due much to the excellent performances and the direction of David Mackenzie.
In the end “Hell or High Water” was a gritty, realistic crime-thriller that thrives on the writing and cast performances. I can’t recommend this film more. It’s moody, suspenseful, surprisingly amusing at times, and will take you on a tense ride across the desolate plains of Texas.