I have to admit to resisting “Hell or High Water” since it’s arrival this summer. This surprisingly much praised Indie hit has gone on to make over $30 million and now it’s being talked of all the time as an Oscar contender and all of that is true. Now that I’ve figured out how to use the VOD function on my cable TV, there is no excuse. And now I have to bow down and start raving like the fan it made me. It IS one of the Best Films of the Year and will definitely be on my Top Ten list.
And the Oscar talk is totally justified! Ben Foster whose star is rising and rising here comes into his own as the bad boy brother, Tanner, of the two Texas brothers that this film is about. He just got a totally deserving nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Indie Spirit awards, and I hope that nomination goes on to further his chances of repeating this at the Oscars.
Chris Pine, who usually plays mighty leading men of the “Star Trek” kind, here astonishes, too as the film’s lead, as the good brother Toby of these two young Robin Hood bank robbers that you can’t help but root for as they rob one Texas Midlands Bank after another. Their motives are totally noble. They want to pay off the reverse mortgage on their late mother’s land in West Texas. And yes, Texas Midlands bank is who is going to fore close and take the suddenly oil rich piece of property for its’ greedy self.
Most of the Oscar talk has centered around Jeff Bridges, who is channeling Tommy Lee Jones’ retiring, tired lawman in “No Country for Old Men.” But note, it is mad man Foster who got the Indie nomination! Of course, Bridges is very, very good, too, especially in the climatic scenes. Pine, Foster and he should ALL be nominated!
And David MacKenzie is the director, a talent I’ve been following for years, since his involvement with Tilda Swinton’s Scottish project “Young Adam” in 2003 with Ewan McGregor. It’s steamy love story set on a Scottish barge, another unlikely setting. It’s no surprise to me how well this is directed and how strongly audiences and critics all over the world are responding to this suspenseful tale that had me on the edge of my seat, I’m telling you.
Why did I resist this film for so long? I don’t like Westerns. And anything that calls itself a “neo-Western” gets my critics’ suspicions up to a very high level of genre busting, But “Hell or High Water” does just that. It sets out to do something that has never been done before and it fulfills all its’ promises. It’s something new, and something timely too in this era of the 99% who feel abandoned, impoverished and alone against a corrupt system. In this case, the Banks.
The screenplay is terrific, too, in its’ freshness and nuance. Written by Taylor Sheridan who wrote the much favored “Sicario” of last year.But I feel Foster has the most difficult job of holding the whole film together with his indelible outlaw portrait of Texas insanity. And yes this film resembles “No Country for Old Men” A LOT. But just remember who won the Oscar from that excellent cast. It was Javier Bardem as Anton Cigurh, as the truly terrifying villain, which is the part Foster is assuming here. Although Foster’s hot head is out of control violence-wise, but also funny and in a strange way endearing.
And here he is from an interview I did with him on my show a few years back for the also excellent “The Messenger” in a completely different kind of role.
# Hell or High Water
# Jeff Bridges
# Ben Foster
# Tilda Swinton