Movie Review: Hell or High Water

I had an interesting week so far. In the midst of driving between cities, getting my vehicle AC fixed, and job related things, Morgan did not get an early showing. Rob Zombie’s 31 was an available substitute, but I did not trust myself to risk seeing his first movie in four years. Instead, I watched Hell or High Water from the writer of Sicario, and one of my favorite films from last year.

To cope with crippling debt and financial issues Toby, played by Chris Pine, enlists the help of his brother Tanner, played by Ben Foster, to rob banks in the desolate West Texas region. At the same time Ranger Marcus, played by Jeff Bridges, is closing in on catching them.

This is going to be short because High Water is better than Sicario. Without hyperbole, the writing, direction, and acting are superior to almost everything I have seen this year (excluding Civil War). I do not understand why I did not see it sooner or why it was not advertised all that much.

In school, I was taught that less is more in dialog. You do not need to explain everything word for word to the audience because they can infer what characters are talking about without going into to detail. High Water is masterfully simplistic. You learn what the brothers are like, why they are robbing banks, and their goal in short bursts. Nothing is front-loaded in a set sequence like your average story, presented only when such details become relevant. If you are looking for a film that is a great example of fantastic writing, look no further.

I expected High Water to be shot like a run-of-the-mill crime drama. What I got instead were flawless long shots with great staging. The opening scene begins is a wide panorama that transitions into more intimate composition that remains open. Actual close ups are few and far between in exchange for wide shots that rely on the physical performance and little details throughout. I may not know much about cinematography or directing and I have no idea what I am talking about, but I know great work when I see it.

The acting really made the whole movie. You can have fantastic writing and direction, but you need great actors to sell it. Foster, Pine, and Bridges were beyond natural in how they talked and carried themselves. Even the supporting actors, who I doubt were professional actors, did fantastic. If the Oscars mattered, I would give one to each person involved.

Very few films have made me this happy. Kubo and the Two Strings, Neon Demon, and Civil War were awesome, but Hell or High Water makes this stagnant year worth it. Everything about the movie is great and if you must see anything this Labor Day weekend, go see it and nothing else… unless Morgan turns out to be good.


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