Oscars: Western-action-thriller aims to impress come “Hell or High Water”

By Justin Busby

For my final pick, I chose “Hell or High Water”, a movie that didn’t receive nearly as much buzz as the other films in the category, in fact it was shutout of its four nominations, but I enjoyed it immensely, especially as a change of pace from the slower drama picks in the category.

“Hell or High Water” follows two brothers, Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby Howard (Chris Pine), as they travel across the state of Texas robbing branches of Texas Midlands Bank in an attempt to repay the debt on Toby’s ranch, which is mortgaged to Texas Midlands. Nearly retired Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his fresh partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) slowly investigate the string of robberies while developing the new partnership.
The premise of this film may sound boring and beaten to death but Taylor Sheridan’s original screenplay and David Mackenzie’s directing shows us a polarized world of the south that provides as many comparisons as the contrasting features in the characters in this western/chase movie. The two brothers share a remarkable bond in terms of their partnership and commitment to the job, but two different pasts cultivate two different perspectives in their robbery methods.
The similarities and differences are more obvious in Ranger Hamilton’s behavior and Alberto’s reactions to the prejudiced statements his superior makes to and at him. Some of things he says are terrible and unnecessary, but with Jeff Bridges playing the character, it’s difficult to differentiate when he’s really pushing Alberto’s buttons and when he’s teasing him like a veteran officer would.
“Hell or High Water” also goes way beyond a great script and acting, but provides vivid action scenes that complement the dialogue driven film. One scene in particular has Ben Foster channeling his inner Joker from “The Dark Knight”. There’s also something about Chris Pine in Cadillacs and Camaros instead of his usual ride, the U.S.S. Enterprise.

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