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I’ve been told my movie reviews are getting a little long, so I’ve tried to rein this one in… here is the review in a nutshell: go see Hell or High Water. Now.
Hell or High Water was the best movie I saw all summer. Period. This movie is so solid from top-to-bottom, it’s very hard to find any weakness in it. From plot to acting to cinematography, Hell or High Water is tight, engaging and challenging.
Chris Pine is a leading man. Perhaps best known as Captain Kirk from the rebooted Star Trek series, Pine has been overlooked, perhaps, because of the flashiness of that role. It’s a mistake to overlook him now. As Toby Howard, one half of a duo of bank robbing brothers, Pine is understated and taut, energetic and intense. He’s wound tightly as he goes on a smartly written Robin Hood-like crusade, robbing banks of just enough money for a very specific purpose. I won’t reveal that purpose – it’s part of the fun of the movie – but I don’t know how important that purpose is, anyway. It’s Pine’s performance that rivets the audience. We care about what he’s doing more because he cares about what he’s doing and less because of the actual task he’s trying to accomplish. Gritty and real, Pine’s work here is outstanding.
He’s up against one of my favorite actors of all time. Jeff Bridges plays the sardonic, brilliant and funny Texas Ranger who is just a slight step behind Pine’s Howard. Bridges is so good in the role – so authentic – that The Cinnamon Girl said “he took the part on the condition that he could say whatever he wants.” He certainly seems like he’s making things up as he goes along in the best way. Bridges doesn’t just Ranger Hamilton, he embodies him.
These actors are ably assisted by Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham. Foster plays Pine’s more rugged, reckless and dangerous brother. The contrast between the two is well draw by Foster’s fine work. Birmingham is Bridges’ partner and is quite amusing in a role that, in lesser hands, would descend into stereotype.
Director David Mackenzie paints a world of dust and dirt, one that has little future, less hope and dead ends wherever you look. His camera finds pristine shots and powerful moments over-and-over during the course of the film, lingering on a sunset or shadow just long enough to create an indelible image in the audience’s mind. His light touch is a fascinating match for the heavy material and his ability to wring humor out of this bleak affair is remarkable.
But, in the end, the movie belongs to the performances of Pine and Bridges, which is, of course, a testament to Mackenzie as well. Hell or High Water isn’t an easy movie to watch. It careens too quickly towards potential disaster for an audience to ever feel relaxed, but I find myself wanting to see it again.
Hell or High Water receives FIVE $200 DOLLAR TIPS out of a possible FIVE.