Sunday, November 27, 2016


Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) Howard are two brothers, the first an ex-con, the other a recent divorcée, who go on a bank robbing frenzy in the landscape of small town Texas. When ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is charged with chasing them down, he and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham) find they're having a harder time catching these cons than they expected.

The buzz surrounding this film since it came out has been unbelievable, so when I finally got the opportunity to screen this film I was beyond excited, especially considering the talent involved and how much I have loved some of the films that have come out in the post-Western genre, which has come to establish itself in the last decade.

Hell or High Water fits right into the very best the genre has to offer and might even have consolidated this new genre by itself. Yet, even considering that I must declare myself partially underwhelmed by the lack of adrenaline and drama that I was able to grasp from the film, this is a very solidly crafted movie, but not one that I would personally call a great of the year.

I am almost sure that when looking back to this era of cinema in the future and when it will be taught in film schools, Hell or High Water will be one of those quoted often. It really does have an aesthetic that has been prevalent in the last few years, from No Country for Old Men to True Detective, you can see where the film is coming from. But what is truly remarkable is how this one manages to distinguish itself from everything it came before and establish its own beautiful visual rhythm with some splendid long takes and a very specific color palette that does not deprive itself of bright tones, giving us a look that we have not quite seen done this way before and giving the story new meaning by doing so.

One should talk about the four great performances that are at the heart of this picture and how each of the actors manages to disappear in his role with flawless accents. Yet what truly sticks out here and what is the takeaway from the feature is just how beautifully it is crafted, how it flows from start to finish without ever giving the audience a moment of dullness, even in its very calculated and slow pace, and just how incredible the cinematography looks. From the great landscapes to the kinetic action sequences, my breath was taken away at what I was beholding.

Now, whilst the writing does do a great job in the world-building, giving secondary characters important roles and relevant commentary, in being darkly comedic to the perfect edge and using dialogue to reveal character, I can't help but notice a big void in the emotional connections and payoff the film gives. Just as its landscapes, it really is a little stale. Now, Taylor Sheridan is probably the biggest upcoming screenwriter in Hollywood and I owe him nothing but admiration and respect, I only think that whereas in something like Sicario the archs of the characters were clear and when you were hit with payoffs it carried weight and emotion, here Sheridan's craft leaves you a little behind in feeling or taking away much.

Still this is by no means a bad script and MacKenzie's prowess in filmmaking, his sheer power in communicating with visuals is so majestically on display here it is hard to come out without having something to think about.

James's Score: 7.5/10

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