Not your typical American Western movie, Hell or High Water delves into the tortuous relationship between two estranged brothers, raising questions about friendship and loyalty. Set in rural Texas, siblings Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard clearly have a rocky relationship but find common purpose trying to save their late mother’s farm. United by their contempt for the faceless executives behind the Texas Midlands Bank, the pair resort to drastic measures to save their mother’s legacy from repossession.
In a time when the corporate banks have sucked the life out of many small Texas towns, the bleak economic opportunities have led the brothers to plan a series of bank robberies, and as you’d expect, not everything goes to plan. Jumping straight into the first heist, there is no easy transition into the action but this injection of pace helps frame the characters and their motive.
Both Pine and Foster do a superb job playing such complex characters; Pine the heartthrob, blue-eyed divorced father of two who would do anything for his family, and Foster the troubled ex-con watching over his younger brother. In pursuit of the Howard brothers is the wonderful Jeff Bridges, as the shamelessly racist Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton, who, on the eve of his retirement is looking for one last showdown.
British film director David Mackenzie is on to a winner with this modern day Western, keeping the audience on edge as he builds his characters while allowing the film’s narrative to be punctuated with violence, abrasive humour and tender moments of love and kinship.
None of this would have been as effective without Giles Nuttgen’s beautifully crafted cinematography; his carefully considered shots bring the audience right into the centre of the Howard brother’s world of disequilibrium.
In all, Hell or High Water is a twisted chase of a movie, which brings a welcome jolt to the Western genre.
Released nationwide on 9 September 2016