Movie: Hell or High Water (2016). A divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother (Ben Foster) resort to a desperate scheme, robbing banks, in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.
I was pleased to see the movie was recently made available for streaming, so last night I queued it up in the home theater and the wife and I settled in for our Friday night entertainment.
I have been looking forward to seeing the movie as it features two of my favorite actors; the aforementioned Ben Foster, among Hollywood’s best young actors, and the great veteran Jeff Bridges as the Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton on the brother’s trail.
The bank heists are not the detailed, precise events often depicted in other movies. Indeed they are carried out by the two average, everyday guys in much the same I way I suspect most would.
The slow developing, long panoramic shots of the Texas plains often reminded me of one my favorite movies, No Country for Old Men, a modern masterpiece.
As the brothers make their way through various small (dying) communities across the West Texas plains, the viewer begins to understand the movie isn’t about robberies executed in a slick and polished way; and it isn’t just about the brothers saving the family ranch, although that is what drives the story forward.
The Billboards – beaconing drivers desperate for debt relief – along the highways is one indication the brothers are in the midst of desperate people. The waitress the brother’s encounter, reluctant to give up a hearty tip even though it may be ill-gotten, is another.
Perhaps the most poignant indicator however, occurs as the Texas Rangers are pursuing the brothers and they come across ranch hands herding cattle, trying to escape a prairie fire which has broken out. When Jeff Bridge’s partner asks if they should call for fire services or some type of assistance, Ranger Hamilton informs him there is no need; help wouldn’t be able to get there in time. He intones in a slow, Texas drawl, “Them boys are on their own.”
When considering the plight of the ranchers, the foreclosure threatening the brothers, the hardscrabble life of the waitress, the decay of the small towns scattered across a barren landscape, and those all too familiar billboards, one can’t help but believe the financial unraveling began for many long before the financial crisis and the housing bubble burst in 2008. Moreover, one can’t help but believe it’s not only the ranch hands who are on their own.