As long as there have been banks there has been someone trying to get what they have or maybe get back what they once had. The story of the bank robber has been told throughout the decades of film, and through just as many different types of looking glasses. You would think every kind of story has been told by now, and yet a new one comes around and rewrites the book a little. Films Like “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, and “Inside Man”, all films that turned the page on the next chapter of bank heist movies.
It doesn’t always mean that you have to up the ante and make it bigger and badder or even Michael Bay ‘big’. Instead you can make the story simple and just let it unfold before you. Toby Howard (Chris Pine) has just buried his mother and is now facing the debt that she has left behind. Wanting to keep his property and pass it to his son, he enlists the help of his brother Tanner (Ben Foster) to come up with the money. The plan is to rob the bank they owe money to, and use that money to pay back the debt. The story jumps right into the first robberies as it explains the reasons along the way. While Toby is doing it for his children’s future, Tanner is doing it for fun, as much as for family. Together they are the perfect mix of calm and crazy, even though what they are doing has been planned very well. While their crimes are small enough to be ignored by the F.B.I, the Texas Rangers do get involved. Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is about to retire, but his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) brings this case as Marcus’s last dance. What follows is a game of cat and mouse as the Howard brothers try to stay one step ahead of the law.
Taking place in a series of small towns in Texas there is a thin line between who the good guys really are. Sure the Rangers have the badge, but while the brothers may be robbing the bank, the reason is something some people can get behind. Written by Taylor Sheridan who brought the same sort of feel and grittiness to last years “Sicario”. This time Sheridan teams up with another director on the up swing in David Mackenzie who is coming off the stellar “Starred Up”. Mackenzie and Sheridan have a way of making this moody quiet backdrop feel like another character and not just the setting. While the story of two brothers robbing banks sounds like a one you have heard before, “Hell or High Water” tells it in a way that you haven’t seen. The story and direction feel effortlessly, but it’s the performance of Foster, Pine, and Daniels that take this film to rarer air. This film will easily find it’s way on many best of list, including my own. With its narrative that feels right for the time, and the right people telling it, everything feels perfect from beginning to end. Greatness is a hard thing to achieve, but here all involved make it look as vast and solid as a Texas highway.