*** ½ out of four
Hell or High Water is an astoundingly good modern day western full of rich characterization and moral complexity. Divorced father Toby Howard (Chris Pine), with the help of his loose-cannon of a brother, Tanner (Ben Foster), plans to save his family's farm by robbing banks throughout several sleepy Texas towns. Hot on the brother's trail is lawman Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his Native American partner, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham).
What's really great about the film, which is written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by David Mackenzie, is that the characters are so well-drawn that you want both sides to win. You want Pine's character to succeed in his plan, but you also want Bridges to catch the “bad guy”. And the reason behind Pine's heists is genius, adding a smack of social commentary to the proceedings.
This is all done with the obvious suspense, but also with a crackling good sense of humor. The back and forth between the lawmen, and Hamilton's skewing of his partner's heritage, in particular, is often sidesplitting.
Along with Sing Street and Everybody Wants Some, Hell or High Water is one of the best movies I've seen this year, and I see another Oscar nod for Jeff Bridges.