Hell Or Highwater: A Review by Nate Hill 

Hell Or Highwater is an acrid, mournful little tumbleweed lullaby sung at the American southwest, a tale of hard times and desperate men infused with the laconic nature of the area and given the spare yet hard hitting writing skills of Taylor Sheridan, who also penned the equally bleak Sicario. I wasn’t quite sure what time period he was going for here until Jeff Bridges’s salty Texas Ranger brandishes a smartphone, signifying the present. I imagined an 80’s throwback, but I suppose the vacuous dereliction hanging about the rural West has only gathered with time, in a place where time has curiously seemed to halt dead in a financial sinkhole where not much of anything in the way of hard earned success can flourish. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers and partners in crime, in the thick of a statewide bank robbing spree which gets progressivly more dangerous, all to save a piece of property from the big banks threatening to foreclose. They’re not evil men, they’re not even bad men because Sheridan’s script doesn’t allow such stark delineation. They are men forced to make decisions, just like any other, yet in times like these one’s decisions are often of an extreme nature, out of self preservation or desire to protect one’s family. Pine is the introverted one, and the actor disappears into the role with ease and scruffy calm that contrasts his usal golden boy charm. Foster is the live wire, a man who functions on mostly instinct alone, lives in the moment and reacts like an animal from situation to situation. Quite the actor he is, and hasn’t been let completely off the chain since 2004’s Hostage. Here he fills the screen with intensity and much needed humour. The two have love for each other that occasionally peeks through the cloud of trouble they’re flying in, the film adament in showing us their damaged humanity through the desperation of their actions. Bridges is crusty and jaded, the badge and gun serving as his only family other than the uneasy camaraderie he has with his younger partner (Gil Birmingham), a man he berates solely because he seems incapable of proper human interaction, no doubt a result of decades on the job, wandering through the desolation of the desert hunting men who have broken their lives and wishing he ever had one of his own to begin with. There’s an emptiness to this tale, a lonely ambience punctuated by many a beautiful song from both Nick Cave, T Bone Burnett and more, whose downbeat lyrics only pile on the mood thicker. The film wants to examine the need to go to extreme measures in times of strife, but holds us in our seat long after the deed is done to show us the ramifications, both negative and positive, of such actions. The result isn’t pretty, but it’s damn well beautiful and one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. 

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