Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges
Director: David Mackenzie
Running Time: 102 mins
Hell Or High Water is an American film about two brothers who turn to robbing banks to pay off the debts on their late mother’s ranch in rural Texas, only to be pursued by a argumentative but determined police duo.
They say it’s all about the thrill of the chase, and that’s exactly the case for Hell Or High Water. It may not be the deepest or most exhilarating watch, but it’s an engrossing crime drama with excellent tension throughout as we watch two robbers desperately try to avoid the hands of the law time and time again, as well as battling with their own internal problems. It’s by no means the film of the century, but with strong performances, stylish and confident directing, and strong tension from start to finish, it’s hard to not get caught up in the story on show here.
If there’s one thing that really impressed me about this film, then it’s David Mackenzie’s directing style. Again, like much of the film, I wasn’t utterly stunned by the style, but Mackenzie still does an excellent job at establishing the dog-eat-dog world of both cops and robbers as well as the financial system, making for some excellent tension and dark drama throughout to keep the story engrossing.
In terms of pacing, there’s no doubt that Hell Or High Water is a slow-builder. In fact, following its explosive first scene, it takes until almost the last scene to return to high-octane thrills. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Whilst I definitely could have done with a little more pace throughout, the painful and dragging speed of the film at times mirrors the frustration and exhaustion of its main characters, on both the sides of good and bad, and it’s an idea that’s handled with impressive confidence throughout.
Mackenzie also consistently reaffirms how brutal this story can be, something further emphasised by the excellent central performances. On the one hand, you’ve got Chris Pine, who puts in a performance miles from anything we’ve seen him do before, whilst there’s also Ben Foster, who is as psychotic on screen as he is terrifyingly entertaining. Meanwhile, on the side of the law, Jeff Bridges brilliantly plays an intuitive cop on the verge of retirement, fantastically bringing across his determination to succeed on his last case, as well as adding some great banterous humour with his fellow officer, played by Gil Birmingham.
The one part of the film that isn’t quite so enthralling and impressive is the plot. Although Hell Or High Water does a good job at establishing its main characters’ hardships, and getting you to empathise with the players on both sides, it’s not the most riveting or exciting crime pursuit you’ve ever seen. I’m not asking for constant gun battles and car chases, but there were times when the cops’ intuition and ability to track down the bank robbers ahead was just a little too good, something that particularly bugged me going into the final fifteen-minute epilogue.
Overall, I liked a lot of what Hell Or High Water had to offer. Yes, we’ve all seen better crime dramas, and this does miss out on some properly exciting and riveting details, but thanks to its performances and confident and stylish direction, it’s an engrossing and atmospheric watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.