I recently saw Hell of High Water and was extremely impressed with the film as a whole. The film has been extremely highly praised including four Oscar nominations and it is easy to see why because the film has excellent acting and writing. The films adds a lot of emotional depth to a bank robbery movie that you normally wouldn’t expect to see.
The film begins with a bank robbery by two brothers played by Christ Pine and Ben Foster. After getting away from the first bank they drive to another and execute another robbery. We quickly learn than Tanner (Foster) has served some time in prison and is clearly more reckless than his brother Toby (Pine). In fact Tanner actually seems to enjoy the robbery. It is clear early on that Pine is robbing the banks out of necessity rather than anything else. Their case is assigned to Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), an aging ranger on the verge of retirement. The brothers only take money from the registers of the banks in order to avoid dye packs or tracking devices, and while many investigating the crimes view this as a critique of the bank robbers, Hamilton recognizes the intelligence and planning that must have gone into the robberies.
It turns to be a very well thought out plan. The brothers’ mother was very sick for a while before she died and racked up serious debt on their land. In addition oil has recently been found on the land, so it is very valuable if they can find a way to keep it. Toby decides he will rob the bank that has caused his mother’s debt and then pay off the mortgage with their own money. Toby is divorced, but he wants the best for his children and wants the property and the wealth that will come from oil to go to them.
The acting in the film is fantastic. Chris Pine, who is best known or playing Captain Kirk in the recent Star Trek films, gives a performance with tons of emotional depth in it. His performance shows the audience all the good in the character despite the crimes he commits. I really was not expecting such a strong performance from him. Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar for his performance and it is easy to see why. The best moments of his performance are his interactions with Native American partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham). He is constantly mocking him for his heritage, and many off his remarks are humorous, but the back and forth banter also shows the compassion they feel for each other and how much they confide in each other. Bridges performance is hilarious at times and extremely dramatic at others. This is another great performance in his incredible career. Last Ben Foster’s performance is also excellent, but his character is more one dimensional. It is clear from the beginning that Tanner is extremely reckless and enjoys being bad. He deeply cares for his brother and wants to help him out in his time of need, but is also participating in the robberies because of the thrills that it gives him. He doesn’t know any life besides a life of crime. He lacks the morals that his brother Toby has, and is a lot more okay with violence. All of these performances are fantastic and are really what separates this film from other bank robbery westerns.
The western outlaw film is not new, but this film is really special. The acting adds a lot of emotional depth that you typically would not see in a film with a similar plot. Also the cinematography is beautiful and captures a sense of loneliness that all the characters feel in the shots of the vast Texas landscape (the film was actually shot in New Mexico). This film is great and I’m very glad to see it receiving the massive critical praise that it has.
Here is a review if you are interested in reading more about the film.