“Hell or High Water,” September 11, 2021 (2016), DVD. Heist flicks are usually not my/our thing, but both Bronwen and I really liked this very intelligent and exceptionally well-written, well-directed, well-acted, and photographed film. The West Texas landscape of towns declining in The Last Picture Show and ranches dustier than they were in Hud are the stage for this one.
Toby, played by a very thoughtful Chris Pine in a stellar bit of work, is hell bent on saving his kids from the poverty he will leave them if the family ranch is taken by the bank. He enlists ex-con brother Tanner, a tightly-wound bit of emotionally charged acting as the wilder, little-left-to-lose older brother, in a scheme to rob from the bank they’re squeezed by to pay of the loan. Both are excellent and deeply affecting even as they do some terrible things. They are being hunted by two Texas Rangers. Marcus — Jeff Bridges in another remarkable turn as an Anglo cusp-of-retirement, widower from an earlier time – and Native American/Mexican Alberto – Native-American actor Gil Birmingham in a quiet and boiling roll. Looking out at a desolate town he bitterly observes that his people, the Comanche, controlled all this until 150 years ago, then the grandparents of the current white settlers came and took it. Now it’s being taken by “those bastards,” i.e., the bank that’s being robbed. He gets it in the most complex way. Two sets of brothers of different sorts, one biological, one occupational.
The film is wonderfully directed by David Mackenzie from the screenplay by Taylor Sheridan. The dust is omnipresent and palpable and the acting from leads and supporting cast is excellent. The sun is brutally bright. Fire scorches the land. Texas is hard on the soul and heart. As one ancient bank customer replies when asked if he is armed “you’re damn right I got a gun on me.”
The film is both sentimental as a pair of buddy/brother pictures and coldly rooted in economic despair at the same time. My thanks to our friends David and Maureen who strongly suggested we see this movie. Once again, I strongly recommend viewing this on DVD and spending some time after the film watching the attached features.