I have never looked up casting directors for a movie before in my life. This film was so well cast that I had to look what genius was responsible for this group being cast. Richard Hicks is this genius. As I ran down his credits I was impressed as I saw all the films he was responsible for casting; Zero Dark Thirty, Let’s Go To Prison, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo, Lars and the Real Girl and Charlie Bartlett are just a few of his greatest hits. Why am I singing this man’s praise? Because I can not imagine a better group of actors being put together for this film.
The concept is not highly complicated and the story is fairly predictable but you have a group of actors that bought in to the directors vision and decided to act their asses off. Chris Pine should honestly do more small films. He was gritty and real and even though he has a natural charm and charisma he plays the part of a man who has played by the rules his whole life, only to have life continuously shit on him over and over, to where that is all you see on the screen. Even during the diner scene where the waitress flirts with him you sense that underlying spark of the man he once was and are still overwhelmed by the weight that is on his shoulders. Chris Pine has been a leading man for quite some time but he has not been a dramatic lead on this level before. I honestly am incredibly excited for his work going forward.
Equally as great is Ben Foster playing Pine’s delinquent and often unstable brother. I have loved Ben Foster ever since I saw Alpha Dog years ago and his amazing range is no surprise to me but he usually doesn’t share the screen with anyone that can outshine him or hold their own. He finds his equal in Chris Pine and i instantly bought in to the idea of them being brothers. It seemed natural and they play off each other like they grew up together. Watching Foster play the mirror image of Pine’s character was interesting by itself. Same beaten down life but Foster’s character never played by the rules. He still got shit on and they both end up basically with the same outlook on life. Two different approaches leading to the same conclusion. David Mackenzie may be one director you should keep an eye on because you don’t make a film like this on accident.
I had only seen Starred Up by Mackenzie before this and that was quite good but he took this film to a whole new level. He crafted a story that you have a fairly certain idea of the outcome from scene one and gave it interesting turns and breathed life into background characters. He made Texas feel like a character and the people that inhabit it are quirky and snarky and feel very real. David Mackenzie is a talented Director that instantly has my attention going forward.
I can not figure out who is my curmudgeonly; Jeff Bridges character in this film or Tommy Lee Jones’s in No Country for Old Men. They definitely reminded me of each other. Tommy played his character a little more wise and measured while Bridge’s went more adventurous and while one seemed ready for retirement the other was fighting retirement tooth and nail. You could sense the unease and fear in Bridge’s character. After a long career, doing the only thing he knows how to do, he was being put out to pasture. He conveyed betrayal at the fact the he gave his life to the job and the job was done with him perfectly. I can not speak enough about the layers this character has and how his motivation in life is about to not exist and the fear was prevalent and how he lashed out was evident.
The story that I have been alluding to is simple. Bank is about to take the farm due to some shady business practices and the brothers have a limited time to keep it. Chris Pine wants a legacy for his sons, something they can always have. He feels like he has not done right by them and the guilt eats at him and motivates him to do one thing right in his life for his sons. Ben Foster just wants to support his brother and make him proud. He has thrown his life away and wants to do something that means something for a change. They decide to rob the bank chains that they owe the money to. Their goal is to pay off the debt with the banks own money. To do this they have to rob a certain amount of banks in a limited time and get the money to the bank after it has been washed by a casino. Jeff Bridge’s character, along with his partner, is the Marshal assigned to catch them.
I actually refuse to give spoilers on how this film ends because I was surprised at how invested I quickly became in these characters and I want the reader to experience the same. Hell or High Water is the best film I have seen this year. It is not a blockbuster or big budget film (12mil budget, made 628k opening weekend and has grossed 28mil to date) but it is a shining example of what you can do with a lot of passion and a lot of talent.