Claudio Says HELL OR HIGH WATER is A Brilliant and Intense Look Into Brotherhood

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FILM REVIEW: HELL OR HIGH WATER 

BY CLAUDIO ZELAYA

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Honestly, I didn’t hear about this movie until last week, but I immediately was excited to see it after watching the trailer. It seems like a more serious role for Chris Pine than recent films. Add Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges and you have a cast that makes you think, “Can they really mess this up?” They didn’t and the result is one of the best films of the year that I’m sure we’ll all be hoping is remembered during Oscar season. “Hell or High Water” is directed by David Mackenzie, written by Taylor Sheridan, stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as brothers Toby and Tanner, and Jeff Bridges as Sheriff Marcus. Truthfully, the real star of the movie is the state of Texas; definitely not taking a trip down there anytime soon!

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The teaser to the movie showcases everything that audiences will grow to love as the we open with some beautiful shots of midland Texas. Toby and Tanner are robbing different branches of the same bank that is threatening to foreclose their family land. They’re trying to get back at the entity that is trying to steal the future from them, but are given an almost invisible challenge when ranger Marcus and his half-Comanche, half-Mexican partner Alberto, played by Gil Birmingham, begin a mission of their own in tracking them down. Along the way, the story builds up Texas as its own character, exploring its Native roots and sweeping shots of its Western style, and while there is no physical enemy, the bank is made almost omniscient to the towns. Everyone knows how the bank plays with their livelihoods and don’t blame the brothers from robbing them. On the other hand, I don’t ever want to mess with Texans…ever! Everyone has a damn gun! Toby and Turner have to worry more about civilians than the rangers.

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As far as chemistry goes, Foster and Pine have it down pact. While two totally different characters in almost every sense of the word, there’s this underlying strong connection that these brothers share. It’s obvious from even the small facial expression they make to each other. Chris Pine plays straight man this time around and Ben Foster’s character is the “troubled” brother. It’s a really interesting pairing because you can easily reverse the roles and they would fit characters that they usually play. I’ve seen Ben Foster be a little more versatile with his role, but Chris Pine usually falls into the same acts much like how fellow Chrises, Hemsworth and Pratt, do. Their motivations for the heists are clearly presented in a somewhat cliché manner, but the writers made it so it doesn’t beat you over the head. Along with the brothers, the movie also builds a strong relationship between rangers Marcus and Alberto. They’re pretty much a married couple, throwing empty insults at each other while looking out for the other. I almost wish they were in the movie more, but given the dialogue they had and the purpose they filled, it was perfect. The movie is slow, so be prepared. However, it’s the best kind of slow that doesn’t waste a frame and builds tension like it’s nothing. The most intense moments for me probably didn’t involve any shooting.

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For a movie that seems to be going under the radar, I can’t recommend it enough. Half my top ten movies of this year seem to be the more low-key ones. This film is beautifully shot, wonderfully paced, and uses its actors to the best of their abilities. I came out buzzing like I did when I first watched “Sicario” even though they’re structurally different movies.  I hope to see David McKenzie do more work after this movie because he’s definitely one to watch. Let’s also give it up for Taylor Sheridan who wrote this movie and was able to flesh out all the characters and leaving us with a great moment of brotherhood at the end that will make even the most cynic feel good inside. I know this review is all positive, but I really can’t think of a negative thing to say!

 

FINAL WORD: StarStarStarStar