WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.
Following a series of armed robberies at a number of branches of Texas Midland Bank where very little money was taken, we learn that the motive of unemployed oil and gas worker Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his brother -- just released from prison -- is to raise enough money to pay off the reverse mortgage that will forfeit their recently deceased mother's ranch if not paid off. Oil was discovered on the ranch and in order to secure the future of his sons and ex wife, Toby needs $43,000. After two of the robberies, curmudgeonly Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his American Indian deputy partner pick up the trail and just miss foiling the next, and last robbery. Written by
Scott J. Tepper, Calabasas
'Hell or High Water' is a bit of an odd duck. Mainly because it got a wide release. This is the only great film that has released in 2016 that got a wide release. I mean, there are only four or five films that I thought have been really great and all of them have either got basically no theater release or a limited viewing. I truly hope that this spurs more films like it though. More well crafted movies that actually have characters you can get invested in. There have been so many films this year that have completely failed due to poor character writing. Now, this film isn't perfect. So lets just get the negatives out of the way before we get into what makes this great.
There aren't many problems here. The only big issue for me lies in the films story. It's really not that good. Once you step back to examine it, it's actually pretty by the numbers. If you've seen any heist movie ever than you probably know where this film is going. It follows a very standard formula that rarely deviates from it's by the numbers approach.
But it wasn't until I took a step back that I noticed it. That's due to how well executed it is. It's one of those films that's so finely crafted that you don't really notice it's issues. That's what I loved about the film. It has such great characters that the familiar beats it hits actually feel genuine. Because you get to know these people and you feel like their choices matter to what's happening on screen.
Which came as a breath of fresh air in a time when films have become so predictable and convenient. Our three main characters are played by Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. Who were all at their very best for this movie. Foster was the weakest of all but when acting across from Bridges, is hard to really stand out. Yet, that is exactly what Chris Pine does. I have never seen him give this kind of performance.
I'm glad to see him taking on nuanced roles that legitimately show his range. It felt almost like his performance in 'Z for Zachariah' but he's far more compelling to watch here. Which really adds to his character. He is the one that you have to feel for most. And his sad yet determined personality really pushed you through the film.
On the other end, Ben fosters character introduced the most conflict to the film. To avoid spoilers, I won't go into his character much but the film respected him enough to not make him the bad guy. It's so easy to make a character like that the films bad guy but he never becomes that person. It respects its characters enough to make them humans with problems instead of saying this guys the bad one and this guy is the good one.
And it's all shot and directed with the utter most care and effort. With nearly every shot you can feel the attention to detail and the work put into making this the way it is. It may not be Alejandro Inarritu levels of ingenuity but I loved seeing effort being put into making the film. It's very rare to see great directing and inventive cinematography in wide release films like this.
'Hell or High Water' is rare breed. It's a great film that got a wide release. There is a lot of love and care put into this and it shows. It's well shot, directed nicely, has a solid score, is brilliantly acted, and offers excellent characters. This is definitely worth going out and seeing. That being said, It falls just short of being amazing. The story is pretty by the numbers and it's ending doesn't really seem to know what it wants to do. However, it remains a great film and is definitely worth supporting in theaters.
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