If you liked No Country for Old Men, you’re going to love this movie. Hell or High Water is a visually alluring neo-noir thriller set in the great state of Texas. You can expect those mesmerizing shots of beautifully arid plains and picturesque hills to sweep you off your feet. The atmosphere is not only immersive but also realistic. And the same goes for the story. We will be following four men, two Texas rangers, and two bank robbers as they try to make the most of their lives. The story is simple but works surprisingly well, bolstered by excellent performances from all four leads.
Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham were stunningly good at bringing these familiar characters to life. They feel like real people, they talk like real people and they act like real people. Moreover, they make decisions like real people. This makes them very relatable and further immerses you in the atmosphere. And I’m not just talking about the main characters here but everyone. From the guy who happened to be at the bank during the robbery to the sassy waitress in a local diner, everyone celebrated that big Texas spirit and everything that makes this state feel special. Someone should make Hell or High Water 2: Welcome to Florida. Now that would be an epic movie.
Hell or High Water is a movie offering not just an engaging story about cops and robbers but also a lot of subtle social commentary. Greedy banks, corruption, and the great dying of the classic small American town are all on the list of issues. Hell, the story from this movie spilled over into real life as the advertisers didn’t want to be associated with it. This is why the movie didn’t get almost any promotion or a wide release in the theaters. Moving on, the action starts almost immediately as the first scene is a bank robbery. From that moment on, the tension just keeps rising and rising.
You can sense that this is a story that’s not going to have a happy ending, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. What I loved most about this movie is its streamlined structure. There’s no fluff or bullshit here. We’re either engaged in gripping conversations, thrilling action, or gorgeous wide shots. And just like in No Country for Old Men, I loved getting lost in these places. It is escapism at its finest. Since this is not your usual movie about bank robbers but something else, you can’t tell how it’s going to end. Anything can happen at any time.
Toby and Tanner just robbed a bank but this is not the only bank they need to rob. These two brothers have the plan to rob several local banks all within the span of several days. Chasing them are two experienced Texas Rangers as the robberies are not that high-profile to attract the FBI’s attention. In time, we will learn there’s a good reason why all of this is happening. The only question that remains is how it’s going to end.
I almost forgot to mention just how good the soundtrack in this movie is. The opening song, written and performed by Townes van Zandt titled Dollar Bill Blues was fantastic and it quickly became my favorite. van Zandt’s music made its way into several of my top tv shows like Deadwood and True Detective. Considering all of this, yes, you can call Hell or High Water a modern Western movie with a noir twist. The pacing is deliberate and the running time short, making it a perfect choice for any movie night.
The writer of this movie, Taylor Sheridan is also the guy behind such hits as Sicario and Wind River. The latter of which resembles Hell or High Water the most, with one major difference as the setting is now completely snowy. I would also like to mention The Proposition, a bit gloomier affair but still thoroughly engaging. Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you check out our Rabbit Reviews selection of noir movies.
Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Dale Dickey, Katy Mixon
Fun Facts: The original title for the movie was Comancheria. This is an area encompassing parts of New Mexico and Texas that was under the control of Comanche in the past.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582782/