Film Review: “Hell or High Water” (2016)

Hell High WaterThe ingredients that make up a truly great film are actor’s prowess, cinematography, storyline and texture. But these attributes are not stand-alone. They can’t be just tossed into a pot and stirred. They must be intricately woven together by an expert director that knows the story intimately and knows how he wants to tell it.

None of the above is required to make money with a truly awful film. All that’s required is non-stop chase scenes, endless loud explosions and violent characters dressed up in various costumes. Those films can make a ton of money stinking up theaters, but they are NOT in the artistic league of the few that are remembered for more than a week.

A truly great film with all the ingredients weaved together very expertly by up-and-coming director David McKenzie is “Hell or High Water” out this week in limited release. The film plot proceeds in an unhurried fashion, giving few clues as to the whys & wherefores until the audience begins to read it between the lines. It’s a plain and simple story of desolation and desperation in a plain and simple homeland. It’s quiet and restrained and there is no massive climax.

The cinematographer captures the gloom of hopeless rural life in West Texas and the bravado of hustlers trying to beat a cruel system within a cruel system that has ruined their lives and their locale. A rich palate of Southwestern culture and color.

This film captures the originality of the director’s insight to explore this nexus and the complexity of the actors’ performance. Not too difficult for the veteran Jeff Bridges, but it turns out that Chris Pine puts in an absolutely outstanding performance. Ben Foster is magnificent and chilling. All the bit players fit the locale to perfection.

“Hell or High Water” is the best film I’ve seen this year. I do believe it will get a mention for a Golden Globe if not an Academy Award for best picture. I also think that Ben Foster as Tanner Howard will get some serious acting nods.

I give it five of five desolate desert landscapes

This is the “art and soul” of film. Must see.

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