"Three tours of Iraq, but no bailout for me."
Scottish director David McKenzie and Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan have crafted a mostly flawless, methodical, and entirely entertaining contemporary western set in West Texas amidst contemporary economic turmoil. Modelled as a classic cops and robbers flick, Hell or High Water uses genre conventions to superbly express universal American ideals and their follies.
Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham star as a pair of Texas Rangers hunting down the small-time bank robbing brothers, Chris Pine and Ben Foster as Toby and Tanner, crisscrossing across the South. Bridges is his trademark gruff and humorous self with a gravelly weariness and plenty of grizzled southern charm while Pine and Foster have a electric dynamic as combative but loving brothers. Pine, in particular, is thoughtfully sombre and earnest acting with gentle looks and expressions to Foster's explosive unpredictability.
It's impressive and immaculate just how purposeful the story and execution are with plenty of suspense and fine performances culminating in a fantastic dialogue-driven Mexican standoff full of tension and effective violence. Sheridan's subtle scripting is superbly choreographed by McKenzie's steady hand and artful direction. The film has an incredible sense of time and place with visuals peering over deserted small towns and dusty backroads in rural Texas framed exquisitely.
Hell or High Water proves itself as a sparkling contemporary western exploring topical economical themes of American distress and modern cowboys. Nearly everything about the film is so skillfully thought out and authentic feeling so as to effectively get across the characters' desolation and personal struggles.
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