Hell or High Water follows the parallel paths of the Howard brothers, who rob the banks that hold their deceased mother’s mortgage and the grizzled veteran lawman assigned to capture the brothers as his last case.
Release Date: August 26, 2017
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Director: David MacKenzie
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
Hell or High Water is a movie that plays on every emotion. For example, you want to sympathize with the Howard brothers. Sympathize as much as you like, they are still criminals. It makes no judgment, while judging.
Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is a recently divorced father who is about to lose the farm of his youth. The bank that owns the note on the farm is about to foreclose on the farm and the stress of the situation lead to her death. Toby is a man with nothing and sees the farms as the only thing he can give to his children. Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is his recently released convict brother. His wild side and impulsiveness is nothing but the foreshadowing of trouble.
The boys have decided to rob the very bank that prey upon their mother and ultimately hope to pay off the mortgage in time before foreclosure. In order to get enough money that have to travel throughout the back roads of Texas hitting one branch after the other.
Following the Howard boys is veteran lawman, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). This is Marcus’ last case before retiring and he brings along his partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), who will eventually take over for Hamilton after his retirement.
The setting of Hell or High Water is intriguing, especially for a West Coaster, like myself. Taking place in the outlands of Texas is a return to the old days of crime investigation. Stripped of the internet and high priced forensics and Hamilton and Parker use the old method of fact, evidence and profiling to figure out the pattern of crimes perpetrated by the Howards and where they will strike next.
High or High Water succeeds as a great movie for two reasons. The movie is a cat-and-mouse caper. The Howards try to stay one step ahead of the law, while never knowing who is chasing them or even if they are being chased. They also have to managed to pull off the perfect crime. It’s one thing to commit a crime and bank robbery is a difficult crime to pull off. But it is also another thing to never be caught and never be considered a suspect in that crime. Oh, and did I mention that Tanner is a hot head?
That’s the mouse, there is the cat. Without the high priced technology of CSI or Law and Order, Hamilton and Parker have to catch up to the mouse and see that justice is achieved.
The other reason this movie is great is the characters. Taylor Sheridan gives you a glimpse straight into the heart of the four leads. For the Howards, you want to sympathize with them. You want to root for the bad guys. But at the same time, you marvel at the brilliance of Jeff Bridges the actor portraying a wise and smart mouthed agent. His back-and-forth with his Native American partner is fun to watch and mildly uncomfortable as it walks the line of friendship and racial ignorance.
It is clear that Hell or High Water deserved its Best Picture nomination. It’s a story that’s been told before where its brilliance comes from its character study.