Hell or High Water
dir David Mackenzie
scr Taylor Sheridan
prd Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn
with Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, John-Paul Howard, Dale Dickey, Katy Mixon, Melanie Papalia, Heidi Sulzman, Amber Midthunder, Christopher W Garcia
release US 12.Aug.16, UK 9.Sep.16
16/US 1h42
Hell or High Water
Brothers on the run: Pine and Foster

bridges pine dickey
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Hell or High Water Smartly weaving in a range of hot-topic issues, this present-day Western builds a striking sense of immediacy in both its story and characters. This allows the slow-burning suspense to grab the audience tightly, boosted by a witty script, clever direction and a perfectly cast group of actors.

After their mother dies, ex-con Tanner (Foster) joins his brother Toby (Pine) in a series of bank robberies. Toby has a plan to steal small amounts, stay under the radar and fund a project that will guarantee a better life for his sons. But Tanner is a bit of a hothead. On their trail, Ranger Marcus (Bridges) is in no hurry, because once this case finishes, it'll be time for him to retire, which is something he's dreading. Working with his sardonic partner Alberto (Birmingham), Marcus tries to get one step ahead of the robberies.

Director Mackenzie gives the film a steady tone that never boils over into unnecessary histrionics. Instead, the intensity gurgles up around the characters realistically, which makes some sequences genuinely terrifying to watch. This is a world in which desperate people have given up on getting any help, having been let down by the government and the banking system. Longstanding professions are vanishing, and hope for the future is hard to muster. Yet the film's dual plotlines find people who are trying to break the pattern.

Pine and Foster are terrific as distinct men (Toby is a steady thinker, Tanner is an impulsive spark) with very different motivations, clashing and yet bonding as they relive past pain and yearn for a promising tomorrow. Meanwhile, Bridges saunters through the film effortlessly commanding interest and sympathy, engaging in a wry battle of wit with Birmingham's soft-spoken sidekick. As these men head toward an inevitable collision, it's impossible to predict what might happen. And only one of them knows how to plan for it.

The film is beautifully underscored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' earthy original music and a stream of mood-setting songs. Sheridan's script digs deep into the characters and the culture, which is portrayed with an honest scorched-earth quality rarely depicted on film. And Mackenzie keeps everything tightly controlled, which makes the themes hugely resonant and eerily timely in a year when people around the world are voting wildly against the sensible options in the desperate hope that shaking up the system might offer a direction worth heading.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 25.Jul.16

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