Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Movie with Abe: Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water
Directed by David Mackenzie
Released August 12, 2016

Crime thrillers tend to follow a certain formula, especially when they involve bank robbers. The reasons for resorting to crime may be innocent enough, and things start out small before turning into something much more serious. Eventually, they’ll be caught and likely killed in a glorious shootout leaving no one the better for all their crimes. That format can still work well, but it’s refreshing to see a story that sets itself up in a familiar way but takes an altogether different approach to the subject, which is exactly what David Mackenzie’s crime thriller “Hell or High Water” does.

The film opens on an unsuspecting bank employee being followed into work by two masked men, who demand codes and cash but still, in true Texas style, use polite salutations and maintain a degree of calm. Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) have an elaborate plan to hit a number of branches of the same bank across the state and cash out at an Oklahoma casino so that they can keep the ranch their late mother fell behind on paying and provide a good future for Toby’s children. Tanner’s unpredictable nature presents numerous problems, and they definitely didn’t count on the intrepid detective skills of Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges).

Every element of this intense, suspenseful crime film combines tremendously to make an entirely immersive and excellent viewing experience. Mackenzie, who previously directed “Perfect Sense” and “Starred Up,” helms another focused and thought-provoking drama, with a strong script from “Sicario” writer Taylor Sheridan. The cinematography by Giles Nuttgens, editing by Jake Roberts, and music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are particular standout aspects of the film that deserve commendation. Pine, who has mostly starred in action and genre films, turns in a superb serious performance opposite an always great Foster’s wild, unfiltered, smooth-talking con artist. Bridges makes a formidable foil for the two robbers, pursuing them with a relaxed determination, spewing repeated cultural insults at his Native American colleague Alberto Parker, humorously portrayed by Gil Birmingham. The film as a whole features a good deal of unexpected humor, smoothly incorporated into a movie that can be deadly serious and furiously tense at its best moments. This is what a crime thriller should be like, and it’s great to see such a strong and effective assembly of acting talent and technical elements in one of this year’s best films to date.


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