This has been a long summer of disappointing super hero movies and so on. Finally, in August, we get a movie for adults. A nearly perfect movie, in fact. Hell or High Water has a 98 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and near universal acclaim from the top critics. And with good reason. From the very first moments, you’re sucked right in.
Chris Pine (Toby) and Ben Foster (Tanner) are brothers. They rob a small bank in a beaten down little Texas town in the morning right as the bank is being opened. But strangely, they only want the loose money in the drawer, and have no interest in bundled money or opening the main safe.
The brothers drive back to a farm and bury the car in a pit dug by a backhoe. While the robbery seems amateurish, this is obviously carefully planned. And they hit more small bank branches. Tanner (Foster) is the more impulsive brother and we learn that he’s recently come out of prison. Their mother has died, leaving the land to the two brothers.
Jeff Bridges is Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger about to retire. His deputy is Alberto (Gil Birmingham), half Comanche and half of Mexican heritage. Jeff Bridges was brilliant in this. He’s old and crotchety, not looking forward to retirement at all. The robbers aren’t stealing enough money to interest the FBI, but Marcus is intrigued with the puzzle of the multiple robberies, and takes his deputy on the road to track them down.
Bridges as Marcus constantly teases and torments his deputy Alberto as they’re driving and as they stay overnight in motels. He reminded me so much of my elderly uncles from Oklahoma and Missouri. Not malicious, but decidedly not politically correct, and not realizing when the racist “jokes” can really hurt deeply. This is Alberto’s boss, and his long time friend, but Marcus can be a bit much to take at times.
Ben Foster as Tanner is the wild card. He makes some impulsive decisions that escalate matters considerably. Chris Pine was so fantastic in this. His pretty boy looks led to roles like Princess Diaries 2 and Prince Charming himself in Into The Woods (he was so good in that!). But I think, at heart, like Brad Pitt, he really wants the character roles.
I won’t spoiler any more of the plan, but Chris Pine is playing a divorced father of two sons. Bridges as the Texas Ranger figures the robberies are to get enough money for a particular goal. He just can’t figure out for what. There’s a fantastic scene where Pine and Bridges go head to head towards the end.
Can’t recommend this film highly enough. It’s a caper movie crossed with a Western. Bridges, Foster and Pine at the top of their acting games. I hope Jeff Bridges gets a supporting Oscar nomination for this one. He’s that great.
Four and a half stars out of five.
Chris Pine also had a really interesting part in the post-apocalyptic movie Z for Zachariah with Margot Robbie and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It was at Sundance last year, and it’s worth a watch. It’s included with Amazon Prime Video currently.