Pine and Foster saddle up in American Western “Hell or High Water”

September 9, 2016

“Hell or High Water” is a modern American western starring Chris Pine and Ben Foster as Texan brothers who decide to rob the banks that are trying to take their family’s ranch while a near-retired policeman (Jeff Bridges) and his Native-American partner (Gil Birmingham) track them down. Many film fans such as myself consider this summer to be quite a disappointing one in terms of the big blockbusters such as “Jason Bourne” and “Suicide Squad,” compared to the smaller films such as “Captain Fantastic” and “Don’t Breathe”—most of which are receiving positive feedback from critics and film fans alike—and I would like to say that we can add “Hell or High Water” to the latter bunch.

First off, the film works on a technical level. While not as visually stunning as, say, “Drive,” the lighting and cinematography of “Hell or High Water” brings out its detailed rural landscapes and is one of, if not the best, looking films I’ve seen this year. In fact, the scenes where the main characters are on the road and only music is playing in the background go together like peanut butter and jelly. Speaking of which, I appreciated the use of country music despite not being a huge fan of the genre, as well as Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’s notably southern score.

Similarly, the performances were stunning. Pine and Foster have excellent on-screen chemistry, and both actors truly become their characters. Although I haven’t seen much of Pine’s work outside of his “Star Trek” movies, his performance as the film’s cautious younger brother is the best one I’ve seen so far. Additionally, I’ve seen even less of Foster’s work, and I can happily say that he delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the crazy older brother of Pine’s character that will go down as one to remember. Jeff Bridges is also terrific as the old, wise-cracking Texas Ranger, which I can also consider Oscar-worthy, sharing some well-written back-and-forth between his polar-opposite partner, Gil Birmingham, who appeared in various televisions shows such as “House of Cards” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” before appearing in “Hell or High Water.”

Finally, the film is remarkably directed. Those who are looking for a fast-paced popcorn flick will have to look somewhere else because this film takes its time in developing both the characters and the world, so that when the stakes got higher I was on the edge of my seat. This is all thanks to the excellent direction of David Mackenzie, and I’m sure that people will search into his previous films after seeing this one. “Hell or High Water” includes several themes and messages about gray morality that are excellently implied in its last 30 or so minutes and give the viewers some food for thought that will last them long after they leave the theater.

Overall, I’m happy to say that this film transitions us out of the lackluster summer movie season and into the promising fall season. From the technicality to the performances to the direction, I’m hopeful that “Hell or High Water” will gain more momentum as this year’s award season nears closer and closer, but only time will tell whether that actually happens. Anyone who either plans on seeing this film or lives near a theater showing it will not regret their decision to do so.