Hell or High Water, even though it offers nothing new about banks, robbers, and cops from a purely narrative perspective, still offers a tale worth watching because it digs deeper into the story of the criminal outlaw.
The screenplay balances action and introspection. Yes, there’s the propulsive plot of two brothers robbing banks (complete with car chases and dark comedy) with cops on their tail, but the script also spends enough time to show us the dynamic between the two pairs. Treated as individuals who just happen to be on the opposite sides of the law, this makes for a compelling social commentary.
As poor townsfolk get bled dry by banks who take advantage of their desperation, vengeance from the two brothers isn’t entirely unwarranted. But the script doesn’t excuse the leads’ actions as two veterans, who do agree that a more sinister robber exists in the town, do their job.
With expository dialogue out of the way, the talented cast is able to turn their characters into relatable people. The script gives them enough motivation that these people have a life before the scheme.
Chris Pine proves that behind his unfairly good looks he can act, Ben Foster confirms that he always could, and Jeff Bridges shows how a grizzled foul-mouthed sheriff should be done. Alberto Parker provides an endearing counterpart to the sober Rooster Cogburn.
The director not only shoots tension-filled action sequences that keep you engaged. He also takes the time to look around and paint a picture of the world these characters live in. More importantly, he lets the camera linger on these people so the audience can get to know them more, even if it’s just two grown-up brothers teasing each other on the front porch.
In keeping with its themes, the movie ends with a moving conclusion after a sun-soaked climax. Toby promises to stop by to give Marcus peace, but the retired officer snaps back and says he will give it back to him. This is ultimately what elevates Hell or High Water – it’s a story about people who are just trying to do their best and live their lives.
Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is a modern western that delivers an entertaining action thriller, a compelling social commentary, and an endearing story about brothers.