A modern day American Western, Hell or High Water, tells the tale of two brothers Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) as they travel throughout West Texas robbing local banks to pay off the interest of a loan their mother took out from the bank before she died. On their trail are two Texas rangers Marcus (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto (Gil Birmingham). The story moves along at a steady pace with plenty of wide open shots of the Texas countryside interspersed with trucks rolling down roads pockmarked with foreclosure, debt relief, and fast cash signs.
The script is written by Taylor Sheridan who had success with Sicario and continues to excel with his storytelling. David Mackenzie directs the camera speeding along the roads or capturing the brothers bonding over beers and wrestling after a robbery. The story captures the sentiment of the times and anger at the big banks while still having a captivating plot.
The acting is phenomenal with Bridges leading the way with his thick cowboy accent and his racial stereotyping of his patient partner. Foster fits well in the role as the crazed ex-con brother whose unpredictable behavior causes a few close calls. Pine is more serious as the sensible brother whose plan sparks the string of robberies and hoping to get away with it. Gil Birmingham also brings humor in his interactions with Bridges.
The tension rises up as the noose tightens around the brothers but I couldn't help but feel there were plenty of parts of this store that I had seen before from the old ranger on the verge of retirement to the young outlaws doing what could be considered a Robin Hood type of robbery. The plot pushes along at a decent enough pace not to get bogged down in the wide open spaces and the climax finishes off with what is to be expected in a caper film. The acting really carries the film.
Hell or High Water signals a transition from summer fun to the more serious fall films. This Western allows for a bit of both with fun, a message, and action all rolled into one. This film will be one to think about when year end rolls around and I remember what shined most at the end of summer. The talent is undeniable and the film appeals to the audience that will be attracted to Western and crime dramas.