Movie Review : Hell or High Water


The movie opens with an early morning bank robbery that is so clumsy and amateurish that Elsie (Dickery), the bank employee …. on the floor, gun to her head mind you …. asks if the boys have much experience robbing banks. It is a light moment for a movie that will take you on quite a journey over the next few hours.

Tanner (Foster) is fresh out of prison and one assumes the mastermind behind this whole thing. His brother Toby (Pine) is far more dubious and anxious about it all but he can see no other way to try to save the family ranch. The story of how the bank tried to swindle his dying mother of her only asset is so very sad but knowing this kind of thing happens all the time will make you burn with anger.

But I assume that’s the point ….

So this pair of down on their luck, good ole boys set about robbing some banks. They don’t take much and only rob the branches of one particular bank so nobody really cares and the only person who bothers to take an interest is the grizzly old Texas Ranger, Hamilton (Bridges). Hamilton is just a few weeks away from retiring and as this could be his last chance to do something fun, he drags his unwilling partner Parker (Birmingham) out onto the road to investigate.

But this story, with its quiet laconic script, its sweeping cinematography and its attention to character is not your average cops and robber movie. About 45 minutes in, you start to feel you might be watching something very special. And you would be correct.


The brothers’ sense of hopelessness is tragically palpable. As Toby so astutely notes ‘poverty is a disease’ and his desperation to break the cycle, to have something for his sons, no matter the cost, is poignantly admirable. Tanner has nothing to lose after his stint in prison and the desire to help his family, again whatever the cost, is his ultimate act of redemption.

On the other hand, the Ranger Hamilton is so good at his job, with so much knowledge and understanding of these poor Texas people, that you almost want him to get his man.

Almost but not quite.

Bridges is a legendary actor and the two younger men more than hold their own. Foster is quietly making his mark and is yet to hit his stride but for me, Pine is the true standout.

Chris Pine is as handsome as the day is long and I sense this has become more of a hindrance than a blessing to him. I could be wrong and he may want nothing more than to be a ‘movie stah’, but I don’t think so. Well Chris, this is the role that will move you from ‘that’ list to the list you really want to be on and it should, if life is fair, garner some nominations. Yep, Pine is just that good here.

This film is so beautiful to look at and so achingly sad you will want to weep. It is without flaw and the final act will have you spellbound. I wish this movie was in wider release and I hope it features heavily at awards time because it truly deserves it. It is without a doubt the best movie I have seen this year.

5 stars

Love Sue-Ellen xx

Director : David Mackenzie

Starring : Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham, Dale Dickey

Running Time : 102 minutes

Release Date :  October 27

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