Deep in the heart of Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) pair up to plan a series of bank heists to prevent a foreclosure on their family ranch. Hot on their heels is soon-to-be retired (of course) Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges).
And that’s the simple plot of Hell or High Water, a neo-western with the heart of the story centered on the decisions of a man attempting to better his sons’ lives. Perfectly cast in their roles, Pines and Foster have great chemistry as brothers. Probably owing to the fact that they are real-life best friends, their kindred interaction makes it easy to forget that they are not related.
Shedding his Captain Kirk charms, Pines proves that he can be more than just a pretty face, delivering his lines with real weariness. Foster is also right at home with his portrayal of the loudmouth older brother. His character’s charming and annoying personality often helps with relieving the heavy tone of the film. It also doesn’t hurt that Foster has a perfect Southern drawl for a Bostonian.
Meanwhile, veteran and Academy Award winner Bridges proves once again that no one does ‘Southern tough guy’ better than him (c.f. True Grit, Crazy Heart). Despite being in a film with younger and hotter actors, he still manages to take command of the scenes he shares with them.
As compared to the typical chase/heist movie, this film has a lot more drama than action. Despite the hopeful ending, there are a lot of bleak moments that are hard to sit through. And instead of blatantly pointing out the reason for the characters’ heist, the audience is subtly shown the gravity of the financial situation in rural America.
Even with the thick Southern accents that will have you wishing for some English subtitles, Hell or High Water is definitely a film worth watching. Its realistic view of life in America will change the way you view the free world, and thank the stars for Singapore’s strict firearms laws.
The film also challenges your moral compass. When placed in a situation like Toby’s, it’s easy to take the moral high ground. But, when push comes to shove, many of us are more than likely to struggle with doing what’s right for the family and doing what’s morally right.
Hell or High Water opens in Singapore on Thursday.