Released: August 12, 2016
Watched: February 14, 2021
Hell or High Water has been on my list of movies to watch for the last few years. Glad I finally saw it, and it deserved all of its Oscar nominations. The leads (Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham) were excellent to watch; Even though their characters were similar to what they’ve played in the past, their expressions in their quiet moments added nuance to their characterization. Ex: Ben Foster, who usually plays unhinged characters, tempered that tendency with a great brotherly/affectionate chemistry with Chris Pine.
This movie is a modern western. Admittedly, I’m not intimately familiar with the genre, but when I think of Westerns, the landscape is prominent factor, an literal or figurative symbol of the wilderness the characters need to overcome. Hell or High Water was smart to use the 2008 economic depression as a stand-in for the desolateness; Mixed with the beautiful landscape shots were glimpses of rundown businesses, foreclosed homes, and predatory bank ads. The people we meet in the film aren’t struggling against the landscape; they’re struggling with poverty with no relief in sight. It’s probably my shitty memory — hence why we do these reviews, really — but while fucking over the rich, inherited wealth, and making a better future for the children are very common tropes, I feel like there are not a lot of movies that flips the script over and explicitly discusses inherited poverty.