Directed: David Mackenzie/ Written by: Taylor Sheridan/ Starring: Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon/ Cinematographer: Giles Nuttgens/ Composers: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis/ Production Budget: $12 million/ Running Time: 102 Minutes/ Distributor: CBS Films, Lions Gate Films (CAN)
It has been so long since I’ve seen a movie in theatres that was about something. This movie had something to say about a lot of things, and as the last movie of the summer that began with the excellent Civil War, it seems like poetic justice to finish off the season on an equally strong note. Perhaps stronger. I have been waiting for a movie that is this good all summer. / Verdict: A
This is the movie I wanted No Country For Old Men to be. Treading similar themes and geo-locale across the state of Texas, this late period western is often at times just as tense. With a bandit of brothers off to save their family farm, and an old and grizzled Texas Ranger days from retirement paired with an ancestor of the native land in hot pursuit… everybody including the pair of lawmen (a more literal banding of brothers in arms) are off to claim something they feel is stolen from them. The two threads with their similar thematic ties shed light on each other and eventually converge in satisfying fantastic fashion.
The film and its title are appropriately appealing to me. Given, not only was I craving to like a film this much over a string of summer blockbuster disappointments widely echoed by the film community (2016 has been something of a drought.) But also thematically, in the way that I was desperate to see a film; one rated as incredibly well as this one, hopeful that it will live up to the hype. Yet despite having that critical confidence, the film’s release was stubborn in its expansion plans.
That last part echoes Toby (Chris Pine, in a career best performance), one half of the brotherly duo. The other, Tanner (played by an electrifying Ben Foster) is a real live wire. His performance echoes his hallmark 3:10 to Yuma performance, and the best parts of The Mechanic. I do seriously hope he gets strong performance recognition for this role, since much of the praise seems to go directly to the already recognized in Jeff Bridges playing Marcus “The White Sheriff” Hamilton. Naturally, it’s the First Nations that are chiefly overlooked. Gil Birmingham here, playing the other Sheriff who is half-Comanche half-Mexican named Alberto, supports the hell out of the movie. Directly serving up the movies themes and making his performance look as natural as the film demands, while tolerating racist behaviour from Hamilton, whose quips are neither funny, insightful, and crosses the film’s line of sympathies from ‘Can you believe this poor old bastard?’ to seemingly condoning his behaviour. Perhaps being a millennial, I’m not as familiar with the old world that the film depicts. [As mentioned, I appreciated but far from loved the similarly toned “No Country For Old Men”.] However a little distance is probably a good thing.
Narratively speaking the title change from Comancheria after its topping on the 2012 Blacklist, an increasingly lucrative pool of unproduced screenplays, has no quite immediate bearing on plot. Still its a good choice, and maybe someone will explain and see something more about the film that I don’t. I look forward to that, as by character Chris Pine’s comes across as focused rather than desperate, and the chase he has with Bridges all the more fascinatingly doesn’t exactly point to any clear inevitability. I guess that makes the proposed results all the more enticing to watch.
“Hell or High Water” is available now on Home Video/ and On Demand services.