Review: Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water Rewind Review!

Hell or High Water is a 2016 crime-drama written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David MacKenzie, starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham. This is a story about two bank-robbing brothers who are trying to raise enough money to save their family’s ranch. Pine and Foster play as these two brothers, Toby and Tanner, the latter with more a history with crime as he has been in and out of jail, but Pine’s character plays the moral compass of the crime duo. Bridges and Birmingham play the two sheriffs assigned to the case, Marcus and Alberto, and as they follow the bank-robbings all over West Texas, action ensues. We’ve seen bank-robbing films before such as Inside Man, The Town, Dog Day Afternoon, Point Breaketc. the list goes on, but a few elements that this film brought that I felt were new was the simplicity and the humor. Those elements seem simple, but they added so much to the film that no other bank robbing movie I’ve seen can do as well.

Really, the only backstory that we get about any of the four characters is through dialogue, and even that is only in passing and mostly ambiguous. We know that Tanner is the trouble maker since he has a history of imprisonment, but that’s only because there’s one line of him mentioning having trouble staying out of jail. That’s all. We only really know about Troy because of how he interacts with Tanner and is much more calculating and caring about the bank robbing than Tanner. Because of that, we immediately know that he’s doing it for a reason, while Tanner is doing it for fun. Later on in the film, about halfway through, we see Troy hanging out a kid, and it’s not stated who this kid is but only through intuition can we assume that the kid is his son. (It’s not stated until the end that they are father and son, and that’s only through calling the mother of the boys his “ex-wife”). Things like this are what make the movie SO interesting to watch. Usually, movies will not only give us the details about this by shoveling the information into our throats but will also contain many flashbacks to make sure we are all well aware of the information. This film did absolutely none of that, which not only kept the film sort of ambiguous but also made the characters more intriguing since we didn’t know as much about them as we could have.

One thing that surprised me the most about this film was how funny it was; nobody could have told me that this film was hilarious and made me believe it. The person I saw it with even called it a “Comedy/Western” which is sort of ridiculous regardless, but the fact that it was so funny is definitely a compliment to the writing. Most of the humor comes from the chemistry that the actors/characters share between each other in dialogue and how they play off of each other. In a way, the robbers and the sheriffs are reflections of each other: Troy and Alberto are the quieter, more reserved and by-the-book sort of people while Tanner and Marcus are more like wildcards since they seem like they do their “jobs” more for fun than for duty. How they communicate with each other is both grave and lighthearted since you can tell that this is a serious and dangerous game they play, but they all seem to enjoy what they do to a certain extent. How Marcus and Alberto joke between each other is especially noteworthy since their humor is usually of the stereotypical/racist variety and always got a huge laugh from the audience.

Overall, Hell or High Water is the underdog movie of the year; not only is it exciting and thrilling, but it’s intimate and humorous as well. The focus on the characters inherently makes the story interesting even though we don’t know much about it, and the chemistry that is shared between the characters allows the film to be fast-paced and enjoyable throughout. This is a film for people who like good movies with fascinating characters whether or not they like comedies, westerns, thrillers, or dramas in general. There is something in this film for everybody and that’s why I’m going to give Hell or High Water a solid 9/10 and a green recommendation! Have you seen this? What did you think about it? As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

Published by Blake Carson Schwarz

Indiana University graduate in Media and Creative Writing. I love to write my own stories as well as experience the work of others. On this site, I post reviews, essays, and other fun posts that I hope you have as much fun reading and I have writing. Please share any comments you have, I'd be happy to hear what you think! *Never a critic, always a fan*

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