Hell or High Water felt like the lovechild of Fargo, Smokey and the Bandit, and the state of Texas. Which, as you might imagine, is bizarre, not particularly phenomenal, but definitely intriguing.
Now that I’ve been witty and clever, let’s talk about the movie. 🙂
It was tight and sharp, from the beginning to end. Those were the words that kept coming to my mind, through the witty, quick dialogue, the focus on the story at hand without many diversions, and the refreshing simplicity of the plot. There wasn’t anything fancy going on, but that focus what made this movie stand out a little for me from a typical bandit-western type story. The important characters were the two criminals and the two cops chasing them, and, I would argue, Texas. No frills. No one else to distract you.Texas was a character, a player in the action. Where else could a movie like this, set in the present day, take place? Everyone had guns. Fairly light-hearted shootouts (at least, at first they were lighthearted) could occur because the movie took place in Texas. The accents, the scenery, that culture-everything was colored by the backdrop. Further than that, it got its own development, too; at first, that culture was sort of an amusing vehicle to get the story started, but as the film progressed the fierce protective instinct, the masculine strength, and the independence of that place emerged.
There has to be a parallel between the two partnerships, because they are both at the center of the movie, but I think I missed what that juxtaposition was. Was it that Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine’s characters were both good men, dragged into this criminal world indirectly? Was it that Jeff Bridge’s character and Tanner both liked the action and excitement of dealing outside the law, but they channelled their energies differently? I don’t know. I feel like there had to be something there, but I’m at a loss as to what it would have been.
The film struck the right balance with emotion and depth-this wasn’t meant to be too heavy or too philosophical. It lets you feel for the bonds between the partnerships in the movie, understand Bridge’s fear of retirement and Toby’s love for his family, and the deaths of Tanner and Alberto without dwelling on them for too long. Questions are raised about crime, guilt, and family, without the movie forgetting that, at its core, it is a refreshed, tight, revamped Western.
The general arc of the movie reminded me so much of Fargo– the way the crimes started as funny, forgettable little actions, escalating to murder, and finally to the abrupt death of one of the four main characters. Toby’s history, as a law-abiding citizen whose “only court appearance was in divorce court” highlighted this escalation and put a spotlight on that ending scene. Oh, finally, a good, solid, satisfying ending with just enough left out to keep you thinking! The ending gave me exactly what I needed to set this film down. A conversation between Toby and Marcus, where Toby reveals his motivation and there’s the slightest question of who he really his, who he really loves, and whether he was this man before the events or became this man after are left on the table. Just enough interest, just enough intrigue, to elevate the movie beyond the dozens of other movies in the same vein.
It wasn’t remarkable. There wasn’t anything wrong or anything missing-it was just a good, solid movie. I can appreciate those, too. It had a simple story and it told it well.
Also, Jeff Bridges is one of the coolest dudes ever. So, all in all, a worthwhile watch.