Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Film Review No. 13 Hell or High Water (15+)

Strong Points:
Very strong performances from all
A satisfying end
Realistic in its setting and presentation
Funny at parts, dark at others
Nice pacing
There is no good and bad side
Great chemistry between both sets of partners
The everyday parts were just as thrilling as the action parts

Weak Points:
A slight 'Deus Ex Machina' to allow the motives to work
Some storylines could've been explored slightly more
The bank's motivations and problems could be lost under everything else

Are there really that many guns there?

Some slight spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
I first saw Hell or High Water on the front page of Metacritic, with it being the top release of the recent summer season. I, admittedly, thought that it was another 'art house' film focusing on 'theme' not story, guaranteed to win critics admiration but not necessarily be a good film. Then I watched the trailer during Suicide Squad and it peaked my interest enough to go and see the film if I had the time. And boy was it a treat. I guess the good thing about a not wildly hyped up release is that you can make your own opinions on the film when you watch it, as not many others have seen the film and become vocal about it - I point to Suicide Squad as a recent example.

Back to the actual film though and the great performances by all 4 of the main leads as well as all the supporting cast. The film felt like a slice of (slightly exaggerated) real life with every characters motive being believable from Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) trying to make his last mission last to Toby Howard (Chris Pine) trying to make sure his children don't live in poverty like he had to. All the actors delivered their lines with emotion, character and believability and with a movie which is so heavily reliant on dialogue, this is no mean feat.

Talking about lines, there were quite a few funny ones, which was surprising for a film billed as a drama. I mean, most of these funny lines were thinly veiled insults poking fun at stereotypes but none of them sounded mean and that is mostly due to the chemistry between the cast. Both of the partners deeply care about the other one but just like it never gets to meanness, neither does it get to melodrama with 10 minute long monologues about how the other is great - it's just right.

And that's the thing, every word is essential in this film, there isn't any fluff or filler, even a scene between Hamilton and a waitress asking 'what they 'don't' want to eat' doesn't feel like extra padding for the film. Of course, some scenes could've been longer and some storylines could've been explored further (the relationship between Toby and his ex-wife is an example) but then the film would've run the risk of being too long and getting boring so the director had to walk a very difficult line between telling a cohesive story and an entertaining one and I personally think he got it right. However, I will note that a bit more backstory could've been good when we found out why the brothers were trying to buy the ranch back - 'there's oil on it' seemed like a bit of a plot hole filler. Even just a note of 'there's been oil cropping up all round these parts' would've been fine.

Being a heist film primarily, this film had to have action and it does, but never for the sake of it. All 3 bank robberies shown were tension-filled, with the tension gaining as the bigger banks were hit and the final shootout scene was a perfect climax to the action. It also provided some very good moments for Jeff Bridges who managed to go through dozens of emotions in the space of a minute or two, which is impressive, to say the least. Coming from a Brit, though, I found it slightly surprising just how many people had guns to hand in the film with one moment especially (one of the locals happens to have a rifle with a scope) feeling like a bit of a Deus Ex Machina moment.

The music and camera work both helped to add further realism to the film, for example, in a conversation between the two brothers, a fly is allowed to buzz near the camera, something which might have just been retaken in another film. The music as well, was not always non-diegetic, with at one point the brothers actually singing along to the background song in the car.

You're meant to root for someone in a film right? Protagonist and antagonist? Well not in this film, as everyone seems to inhabit a moral grey area, with all actions being questionable but most motives being sound. That is really interesting as you just keep thinking to yourself, especially in the final couple of scenes, 'why can't they all just be happy and secure?' And I guess that's what the film is trying to make us think about, where are the lines which can't be crossed, especially in times such as a financial crisis (the film was only set a couple of years ago).

Conclusion: overall, this film was great. No filler, no expensive CGI, just a character study about four people thinking they are doing the right thing.

Rating: 90%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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