Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water is directed by David McKenzie and stars Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster. The premise for this movie is as straightforward as it gets: Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are divorced brothers living in their ranch in West Texas, which is on the verge of foreclosure. The two brothers decide to retain control of their property by planning a series of heists against the bank who is conducting the foreclosure. Standing in their way is Marcus (Jeff Bridges), an aging sheriff who is weeks from retirement.

This movie has a very simple yet excellently executed storyline. It discusses the lengths that two Texan brothers would take to save their family’s ranch. The ranch is given a strong sense of purpose in the movie as it is a symbol of family and heritage. At the same time, the dynamic between the Toby and Tanner is also well portrayed; so much so what you end up rooting for these characters, even though they’re bank robbers. Another great dynamic in this movie is between the Sheriff and his partner Alberto, played by Gil Birmingham. Like the two brothers, these two characters also share a strong bond as they travel together across West Texas to catch the robbers. However I wasn’t particularly wooed by the performance of Jeff Bridges. He had a really thick Southern accent that I found incomprehensible at times. His accent felt like a parody of his accent in “True Grit”. However one thing that I did enjoy about Jeff Bridges’ (in fact every character in this movie) character dialogue. All the conversations in this movie felt really down to earth and relatable.

On the flip side, both narratively and stylistically, this film isn’t that original. It borrows a lot from the highly acclaimed “No Country for Old Men”. To list a few of the similarities:

  1. Both are set in West Texas
  2. Both feature a sheriff who is pondering his own retirement.
  3. Both movies contain a stolen sum of cash that is sought after by figures of authority.
  4. Both films utilize very similiar looking shots of the desert (see below)


No Country for Old Men (top), Hell or High Water (bottom)

Overall, I’d give Hell or High Water a passing grade. The premise of this movie is simple and well executed through the excellent dynamic between Toby and Tanner. The biggest strength of this movie is its dialogue, which is both down to earth and relatable. However it is undeniable that this film steals a lot of its elements from the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men. 





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