Review: ‘Hell or High Water’ The Best Film Of The Summer

CBS films invite audiences deep into the heart of Texas in its heist drama Hell or High Water. Directed by David Mackenzie, this is a slow, simmering cauldron of intrigue, both well-crafted and deftly acted. For those who are fans of Chris Pine, forgo seeing him playing Captain Kirk and witness his most gripping performance to date.

Two brothers, Toby and Tanner (Chris Pine and Ben Foster), are faced with the prospect of losing the property their mom had her entire life. They have until the end of the week to come up with enough money to pay off her reverse mortgage plus interest, or face foreclosure. Rather than coming up with a conventional way to raise that type of capital, the brothers hatch a scheme to rob multiple branches of The Texas Midland Bank, which also happens to hold that bank note.

hell-or-high-water-2016-ben-foster-chris-pine1Retiring foul-mouthed Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is assigned to this case and quickly deduces that this is no ordinary string of bank robberies. It quickly becomes an intense Cat and Mouse game between the two brothers and law enforcement as they attempt to stay one step ahead of them as well as make their Friday deadline.

Hell or High Water is splendidly shot, and that’s due to the talents of Giles Nuttgens. Nuttgens manages to capture the dusty and opaque pallet of Texas while also leaning into moments which heighten the intrigue of this film. For example, he manages to include plenty of open panoramic shots including many of the abandoned homes and businesses in Texas, giving audience members both a feel for vast openness and the economic issues in the Lone Star. The getaway scenes were also shot with extreme precision. As Toby (Pine) speed away from each heist, they took the vehicles down side streets and Nuttgens stays with tight shots on the car.

Taylor Sheridan once again crafts a wonderful screenplay with rich characters. This should come as no surprise as he showed off his writing prowess recently in Sicario. Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges all deliver stellar performances. Foster is perfectly cast as Tanner, the loose cannon with an itchy trigger finger. Pine delivers the best performance that he’s ever given on screen as Toby, the conflicted brother who’s loyal to his family even if it means breaking the law. Jeff Bridges does what Jeff Bridges does best, have a commanding presence on screen and show audience members why he’s a legend.

It’s not often that a film of this caliber shows up at the end of the Summer movie season, but after a collection of disappointments, I’m sure glad it did. Hell or High Water is not only the best film of the summer; it certainly will be one of the Top 10 films of 2016.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.