Hell or High Water 2016 Movie Review
One of the most critically acclaimed films of 2016 and nominated for four Oscars, ‘Hell or High Water’ also had an intriguing idea, a talented cast with Jeff Bridges being a particular attraction and a script by ace writer Taylor Sheridan (writer for the brilliant ‘Sicario’, and went on to direct one of the most promising directorial debuts of 2017 with the recent ‘Wind River’).
‘High or High Water’ was not a let down in any way. One of the finest films of 2016 and to me all its four Oscar nominations were among the year’s most deserving (Bridges’ nomination for Best Supporting Actor should have been a strong contender for winning). It is not the most original of stories sure, but that did not matter at all because it executed all its components impeccably and still had its share of surprises. It does have a slow start somewhat but not in any way a want-to-switch-it-off way.
Along with ‘La La Land’ (it has become popular to hate that film, loved it personally), ‘Hell or High Water’ was one of the year’s best-looking films. It has a rustic Western look in terms of setting that is very effectively evoked and it is stunningly shot. It should have been a contender for Best Cinematography, but at least got some recognition for the concise editing.
The rip-roaring, at times hauntingly elegiac and at other times rousing, soundtrack enhances everything going on on screen. That one of the best scores that year was not even nominated and the pretty awful score for ‘Jackie’ (one of the worst things about a disappointing film) was even to a very subjective reviewer, who absolutely despises the “I don’t understand…” and all its various other just as clichéd, overused and abused variations, is not easy to fathom.
Best Original Screenplay was very much deserving, with Sheridan once again striking gold with a snappy, smart and tightly structured script. While meditative in pacing, the story is nonetheless absorbing and surprisingly rich in its complexity. It’s also intricately told and with a mix of the hard-edged and the elegiac.
David Mackenzie does a remarkable job directing, getting the most out of the story and atmosphere and bringing out the best of his cast. Chris Pine’s lead performance is one of his best, but it’s the supporting cast that shine more.
Ben Foster, in a role that is the polar opposite to Pine’s and perhaps the slightly more interesting, is a revelation, even more is an astounding Jeff Bridges who completely disappears into his role to unforgettable effect. One must also single out Gil Birmingham, who really wrenched the heart in this year’s ‘Wind River’ and gives a different but every bit as wonderful turn here.